Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Society & One-Legged Dharma-Part 4- Homosexuality & Marriage

Nithin Sridhar

I will pen-down my comments and opinions on various social issues under the title "Society & One-Legged Dharma" pointing out how most of the ills of the society has been caused due to forsaking of Dharma by people. In Hindu scriptures, the Dharma represented by a Bull is said to stand on four legs in Satya Yuga, when most people practiced and lived life by Dharma. "Four-Legs" denotes that Dharma was firmly established in society. On the other hand, it is said that,in Kali Yuga, Dharma stands only on One-Leg. We have been witnessing this in our society, where qualities like truth, non-violence, compassion, honesty have lost their value and replaced by untruth, deviousness, corruption, violence etc.
The series of writings under this title is my humble attempt to revive Dharma by making people become aware of them.
-Nithin Sridhar


Homosexual & Marriage

In a big blow to gay rights in India, the Supreme Court upheld a law criminalizing homosexual sex on Wednesday, setting aside a landmark Delhi high court decision in 2009 which had overturned the colonial-era ban.

Read More:


My Comments:

The issue whether gays are born as gay or later in life circumstances turn them into gay is to be left to science. In either case, what two sane adults do in their bedroom, is none of the concern of Government or Law. Hence, the very act of criminalizing of supposed 'unnatural sex between two consenting adults' is wrong as long as it does not lead to some violence. There is nothing criminal about what goes between consenting adults.

Now, sex and marriage can be treated as separate issue or also as connected issue. The Section 377 is concerned only with sexual aspect and not the aspect of marriage. Marriage is not just about Sex though Sex/physical intimacy is one of the most important tenets of marriage. As far as the matter of sex alone is concerned, I believe it should be left to individuals and state has no moral rights to interfere in it.

Now, coming to issue of marriage of a gay couple. It is to be first understood that there is not much difference between a gay live in together couple and a gay married couple, except the latter involves more personal commitment along with legal security and social acceptance. Coming to the issue Hindu conception of Marriage, it is understood as a "Dharmic Bond" in which two are brought together for the purpose of practicing Dharmic duties together. Giving birth to children and continuing the family is one of the important duties of a married couple.So, also a series of Dharmic rituals and actions like Samskaras, Yajnas etc that has to be performed by Husband and wife. The present condition of society is such that, even Heterosexual couple practice only few religious duties. In case of a Gay couple, they cannot conceive children nor are they eligible for religious duties that has to be performed by husband and wife. Nevertheless, we can see that marriage is also based on concept of commitment, love, support and a desire to be with each other till the end. And these attitudes are present in a relationship between two men or two women even when they have not legally married. So, I feel even within Hinduism, Homosexual marriages can be allowed to happen, or at least be given a semi-marital status, where-in though they cannot conceive children or cannot perform certain rites like yajnas etc, they can at least practice Dharma like Truth, commitment, love etc. And if not Yajna, they can at least practice Japa, Puja etc. Further, some of the Dharmic tenets that are applicable to Heterosexual Married couple which cannot conceive nor adopts can also be applied to Homosexual marriages who do not go for adoption. Even if a homosexual couple adopts children, they can be treated the way heterosexual couples who adopted are treated.

Further, as far as the issue of Legal marriage is concerned, Homosexuals can be easily be allowed to get married under special marriages act by making provision for gay/lesbian marriages. Irrespective of the fact that whether such marriages are acceptable or not acceptable to some people, whether or not such a marriage will be recognized by religious heads or by religious tenets there should be no bar on considering, homosexual marriages as legal marriages.

Saturday, November 09, 2013

Are Vedas valid means of Knowledge?

Nithin Sridhar

In Hindu tradition, Vedas or "Sruti" are held as ultimate "Pramana". Sruti, Smriti, Itihasa and Puranas are all considered the authority on matters of Karma, Dharma and Moksha-in short the whole religious life. It is often asked, Why should we take Vedas as authority? Why should Vedas be taken as "Shabda Pramana"?

"Pramana" means "valid means of knowledge". There are various means by which a correct knowledge is obtained. Pratyakṣa (direct perception),Anumāṇa (inference),Shabda (verbal testimony) and Upamana (analogy) are the important valid means mentioned in scriptures.

All these Pramana are used in day to day life. All that we see, hear and perceive by senses are called as "Pratyaksha". "The water exist, because I can see it, and I can drink it" comes under Pratyaksha. "There is a smoke which I can see, so definitely there must be fire or factory somewhere"- comes under Anumana/Inference. "Similar to Cow, even Yaks provide milk" or "Unlike Tigers, Elephant has tusks"- these come under Upamana or Comparison.
Similarly statements like "John who went to Himalayas says it is very Cold"- comes under Verbal Testimony. So, in the Material world, all the four means of knowledge are used and accepted.

But, when it comes to the questions like- What happens after life? Does a person have only one life or is there after life? Does heaven or hell really exist?, neither direct perception nor inference nor comparison cannot function Independently or on its own because they are not perceivable from Sensory organs. The material world that is perceivable by senses can be understood using perception, inference and comparison but how will one to know about something that is not directly perceivable?

It is in these matters that are not "Laukika"- (that do not belong to this world/direct perception), the "Sruti" is considered the "Shabda Pramana"-the only means of Valid knowledge. In the world, when one has question related to Physical forces that work in Universe, he refers to Physics books. Similarly, to learn about chemicals and organisms, one refers to Chemistry and Biology and not History or sociology books. This is because we refer to only that book which explains about that particular phenomenon. A history book does not speak Physics nor vice versa. Similarly, it is Vedas alone that is the source of Knowledge about things that are beyond the grasp of our senses. Because, there is no other means by which we can know about Dharma, Karma and Moksha- the Vedas are considered the ultimate Pramana.

If it be asked, what is the proof that Vedas are true? Why should we accept it? The answer is that such questions can be asked about science too. Do we not accept the words of scientists when we read about it in textbooks? It is true that, they have arrived at those solutions after many experiments and analysis. But, the fact is that a common man does not witness those experiments in front of him. Similarly, the Vedic truths have been "Seen" (Directly Realized) by Rishis. There has been different lines of Teachers who have continuously guided the disciples towards Vedic Truth. If it be asked that, just as scientists have been proven wrong many times, even Rishis can be proven wrong and hence, Vedas cannot be accepted as "Pramana"; the answer is that, the Vedas are not created or written by Rishis. Vedas are "Apaurusheya"- that which is not of Human origin. Hence, at highest level Veda is not just "means" to attain Highest Knowledge but "Is" the Highest Knowledge itself. Brahman/God is described as "Satya", "Jnana" and "Ananta". Brahman is "Knowledge itself" and hence, it is Brahman who is source of all Knowledge. It is in this sense that, Vedas are described as "Apaurusheya". Hence, it is God/Brahman himself who has for welfare of world has taken many avataras like Krishna, Dakshninamurthy, Hayagriva etc to reveal "Satya/Truth" to people.

Hence, for a sincere seeker, there should be no doubt regarding Vedas being the ultimate means of Valid Knowledge in matters that are beyond the grasp of senses.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Society & One-Legged Dharma-Part 4- Thoughts on Jati-Varna System

Nithin Sridhar

I will pen-down my comments and opinions on various social issues under the title "Society & One-Legged Dharma" pointing out how most of the ills of the society has been caused due to forsaking of Dharma by people. In Hindu scriptures, the Dharma represented by a Bull is said to stand on four legs in Satya Yuga, when most people practiced and lived life by Dharma. "Four-Legs" denotes that Dharma was firmly established in society. On the other hand, it is said that,in Kali Yuga, Dharma stands only on One-Leg. We have been witnessing this in our society, where qualities like truth, non-violence, compassion, honesty have lost their value and replaced by untruth, deviousness, corruption, violence etc.
The series of writings under this title is my humble attempt to revive Dharma by making people become aware of them.
-Nithin Sridhar


 Thoughts on Jati-Varna System
In the ideal Varna System, Jati is for vocations and not vice-verse. In a society there are multiple jobs that must be done by different groups of people. Only then, there will be smooth functioning. If every person is competing for some jobs and some other jobs are neglected, there will be unemployment, jealousy etc in the society.

Hence, in order to achieve effective division of labor Jati system was create. Jati refers to a group of people involved in a specific job. It was made hereditary as by this, it was easy to pass the skills required from father to son, generation to generation. Varna's as you know is determined based on Guna and based on it certain Duties/Dharmas has been allotted. But, a child's Guna is most affected by the environment in which it grows. Hence, the Jati was designed such that, generation after generation grew in that particular environment and did those jobs and contributed to the society. They lived a happy and content life. There was no jealousy, hatred or violence. As No Job can be said to be inferior or superior to another, no Jati was considered inferior or Superior. Hence, there was progress and harmony.

Of course, all these are in an Ideal Society with Varna-Jati System in place. But, this system has been decaying for many centuries now. In fact with each Yuga, Dharma declines. Yet, it can be seen that, even till few hundred years ago, till the time of coming of British, there was very less caste violence. The untouchability etc had already taken its ugly form. Yes. But, the situation was still better than today. After the arrival of Britishers, the situation became worse. People abandoned their dharma/duties. They all started competing for luxuries imported from the west etc. People left their Jati Dharma- heredity vocation and duties but held on to the Jati names. This was like cutting of head itself because of headache. Every system over time may develop some branches that decay. The solution is to take corrective actions and set right the mistakes and not abandoning the whole system. In India's case, because of development of social discrimination and rigidity in the Varna-Jati system and because of the temptations of the material comforts, people abandoned the whole system.This is the root of current mess. Today Jati is only in a name to be invoked during elections. The concept of simple life, Sva-Dharma as applicable to each Individual have been completely abandoned.

According to Sri Chandrashekara Saraswati Swamiji, the major blame lies with Brahmins, who first abandoned their Dharma. It is Brahmin's dharma to study scriptures, learn vedas and all the rituals and practice them, teach them and living life in a humble and simple way. They guided society by example. When, they abandoned their Dharma for material comforts, then even the other Jatis followed. Hence, the whole system ended in a mess full of jealousy, discrimination etc. In fact, it must be added that, for many centuries before British had come,the Caste system had become rigid. The Jatis were not supposed to be too rigid. And discrimination had already lifted its head. Hence, the society had marched towards slow decay.

The Ideal solution should be that everybody should return back to Varna/Jati system in its Original form devoid of distortions. Doing so, will remove all the present conflicts and other problem. But, of course this is not practical immediately. It may take a long time. So, he suggests that for the sake of protection and propagation of Dharma, a set of people must be fully dedicated for learning, practicing and teaching. He says, at least Brahmins must return back to their Dharma of Vedic learning. Brahmins must let their children learn Vedas and live life by teaching and performing Vedic rituals. Or a new Caste of Brahmins be created for the study and practice of Vedic Dharma. If this happens, may be in some future by seeing the example of Brahmin Jati who are doing their duties in humble and simple way, the other people of society will also return to the Varna fold.

But, till then everybody can try to live life in a simple way even in the midst of luxuries. Everybody should try to be content with what God provides. Everybody should earn money through Dharmic means and not by corruption or bribery. Everyone should try to practice Samanya Dharma- Truth, Non-Violence, Cleanliness, Control of Mind etc.

Hence, those who have desire to gain wealth must do so in a Dharmic manner with an attitude of surrender to God. Those who are in political power must perform their work in a unbiased way for welfare of society again with attitude of Surrendering to Lord. This same is applicable to everyone in all the jobs be it defense or corporate sector. Everyone should do their work in dedicated way and try to be content with what they have. This is not to say they should not desire for better life but such a desire should be fulfilled by honesty and hard work. And people should perform some form of sadhana/bhakti and learn to control their desires.

And among the vast masses, if a few feel desire to learn scriptures, they should learn and practice them and propagate them. Society as a whole must make little efforts in protection and propagation of Vaidika Dharma. Only Dharma can save us.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Society & One-Legged Dharma-Part 3- Eleven Points on Dharma

Nithin Sridhar

I will pen-down my comments and opinions on various social issues under the title "Society & One-Legged Dharma" pointing out how most of the ills of the society has been caused due to forsaking of Dharma by people. In Hindu scriptures, the Dharma represented by a Bull is said to stand on four legs in Satya Yuga, when most people practiced and lived life by Dharma. "Four-Legs" denotes that Dharma was firmly established in society. On the other hand, it is said that,in Kali Yuga, Dharma stands only on One-Leg. We have been witnessing this in our society, where qualities like truth, non-violence, compassion, honesty have lost their value and replaced by untruth, deviousness, corruption, violence etc.
The series of writings under this title is my humble attempt to revive Dharma by making people become aware of them.
-Nithin Sridhar

Eleven Points on Dharma

 1. Much of the ills of the present society can be solved if people simply start adhering to the tenets of Dharma.
2.The problems of corruption,black-money, illegal mining,scams would not have happened if people had followed Asteya-Non Stealing.
3.The caste discrimination, Dowry burning,religious riots, Honour killings would not have happened if people adhered to Ahimsa-Non Violence.
4. The condition of Ganges, the problems of toilet, sanitation,pollution etc are due to non adherence to Shaucha- Cleanliness.
5. Rape, Murder, Family Dispute, Property Dispute etc are due to Non-adherance to Ahimsa, Asteya & Indriya Nigraha.
6. Ahimsa includes not causing harm through mind, words or actions. Hence, all such incidents of violence could be avoided.
7. Indriya Nigraha- by controlling one's mind & senses- greed, lust etc can be suppressed avoiding rape, sexual assault, etc
8. The rape & other assaults like eve teasing, acid attack, dowry burning etc have their source in lust,ego & desire to dominate.
9. If, people start following Ahimsa & Indriya Nigraha in thoughts, speech & Violence,most crimes against women will not take place.
10. The very discrimination & related violence in name of caste, language, religion will be absent if people practiced Ahimsa.
11. Hence, the solution to the problems that affects India is in the Revival of Dharma.

Dharmo Rakshati Rakshitah.


Friday, October 04, 2013

Society & One-Legged Dharma-Part 2- Nava-Ratri-Celebration or Exhibitionism?

Nithin Sridhar

I will pen-down my comments and opinions on various social issues under the title "Society & One-Legged Dharma" pointing out how most of the ills of the society has been caused due to forsaking of Dharma by people. In Hindu scriptures, the Dharma represented by a Bull is said to stand on four legs in Satya Yuga, when most people practiced and lived life by Dharma. "Four-Legs" denotes that Dharma was firmly established in society. On the other hand, it is said that,in Kali Yuga, Dharma stands only on One-Leg. We have been witnessing this in our society, where qualities like truth, non-violence, compassion, honesty have lost their value and replaced by untruth, deviousness, corruption, violence etc.

The series of writings under this title is my humble attempt to revive Dharma by making people become aware of them.

-Nithin Sridhar

Nava-Ratri- Celebration or Exhibitionism?

 Those who will be celebrating Nava-Ratri, the nights of the Goddesses, the nights of the Shakti, should stop a moment and conduct a deep review of their own actions. Does the men in society conduct themselves the way they should with respect to women? Is it proper on the part of those Men who indulge themselves in harassing, eve-teasing, raping, or dowry burning etc etc? Is it right on the part of Women who themselves suppress other women, impose on them restrictions? Is it right on the society as a whole-both men and women to blame the victimized women during any issue of sexual assault?

Does our Bhakti towards Devi depicts genuine love and devotion or is it mere hypocrisy? How many of the people celebrate Nava-Ratri/Durga-Puja due to genuine love and surrendering and not just for the sake of doing it in the name of tradition that has come down to us from past?

How many people who Pray for MahaKali pray for induing in them an understanding of Righteousness and not for selfish desires to be fulfilled? How many of us pray Maha-Lakshmi for prosperity and wellness of the world and not just for wealth and money for one's own-self? How many pray to Maha-Saraswati for Spiritual upliftment and Transcendental knowledge and not for a son/daughter to be able to pass engineering and earn in millions?

Are the people really interested in doing Real Worship? If they did, why are they only indulged in Hypocrisy, Exhibitionism and entertainment? Why has the devotional element disappeared Nava-Ratri and has been reduced to visiting Durga pandals, Dasara Exhibition, Dandiya dance? I am not suggesting that Dasara Exhibition or Dandiya is wrong. I am only aghast at the absence of devotional elements from it.

A true devotee of KaLi will always care for righteousness. Kali is the personification of Kriya Shakti. Hence, such a person would ever try to be a Karma Yogi. He would try to practice Dharma in his every word and action. How many people are living like that? How many even care?

A true devotee of Lakshmi will always be concerned about the wellness of the whole Universe. He would by his mere Will work towards Universal Goodness. Lakshmi is personification of Ichha Shakti. How many of us are interested in guiding our Will and Desires by Dharma? Are we not all indulged in fulfilling Selfish desires and fantasies?

A true devotee of Saraswati would be ever indulged in gaining and spreading the Knowledge. He would be ever indulged in studying and understanding scriptures and Dharma and will spread and guide others in doing the same. Saraswati is the very personification of Brahma-Jnana. How many even care to study Gita? What more, the parents even prevent their children from studying scriptures.

In the light of such behavior and mentality prevalent in the society, how many are performing "Real" Nava-Ratri in the sense that out of love, devotion and surrender with sense of righteousness/Dharma and Selflessness? What good is any Puja, any celebration when it is done only as an exhibition and for the approval of others and not for the pleasing of the God and spiritual welfare of the world?

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Society & One-Legged Dharma-Part 1- The Burning of Daughter?

Nithin Sridhar

I will pen-down my comments and opinions on various social issues under the title "Society & One-Legged Dharma" pointing out how most of the ills of the society has been caused due to forsaking of Dharma by people. In Hindu scriptures, the Dharma represented by a Bull is said to stand on four legs in Satya Yuga, when most people practiced and lived life by Dharma. "Four-Legs" denotes that Dharma was firmly established in society. On the other hand, it is said that,in Kali Yuga, Dharma stands only on One-Leg. We have been witnessing this in our society, where qualities like truth, non-violence, compassion, honesty have lost their value and replaced by untruth, deviousness, corruption, violence etc.

The series of writings under this title is my humble attempt to revive Dharma by making people become aware of them.

-Nithin Sridhar

The News report:
The defense lawyer in the Delhi's Jyoti Gang Rape case says- "Why don't people first control their daughters? I'd burn my daughter alive if she was having pre-marital sex,roaming around with her boyfriend at night".

Read more at:

My Comments:
Every time, any issue regarding women comes into picture, these so called proponents of culture and tradition ask for 'controlling daughters/sisters/wives' etc.

My question to these people is-What culture are these people talking about?
This is not Hindu culture, this is not Sanatana Dharma.

The most basic tenets of Dharma prescribed in scriptures is Ahimsa- Non-Violence. Ahimsa is not just non-violence but also forbearance/titaksha. One must practice Ahimsa at the level of body,mind and speech. A person, should not only not hurt others physically for his selfish or other motives rooted in ajnana and adharma, but he should also not think or speak about harming others.

A person who speaks of burning his daughter, what tenets of Dharma is he following? What purpose of Dharma will be achieve by burning his daughter? He has no moral, ethical, legal and Dharmic right to take away anybodies life, just because they wish to live their life in their own way.

Our scriptures speak about Gandharva marriage/Love marriage, if two people are involved in a mature love relationship, then it is definitely not Adharma. Even if a couple is involved in a sexual relationship as a time-pass or in a casual way, even then, the father has no right to take her life. The most the father or mother is entitled to do is to make children understand. But, ultimately,once a child has grown up, he/she is responsible for his/her actions.

Neither having boyfriend, nor pre-marital sex in a relationship nor roaming at night is Adharma. This does not mean that Hindu scriptures suggest sexual recklessness. Along with Ahimsa, Hindu scriptures also prescribe "Indriya Nigraha"-control of mind and senses. But, Indriya Nigraha does not mean, one should not have relationship or anything. It only means, that any relationship must be based on deep love and not sensual attractions alone. The failure to understand the thin line between the two has caused modern twisted understanding of culture and tradition.

Further, daughters are not parents property. In fact no person is anybody's property. Hindu scriptures say that, the homes where women are not respected, there even gods dont dwell. So, what respect are we showing by burning our daughters/killing them just because they dared to love? The issue should never be that whether women should have relationship or not, nor should the issue be whether women should go out at night or not. The issue should be,how well can we, as a society ensure that they have full freedom and safety to live their lives.

If people, really want to live by culture and dharma, they must start practicing tenets like Satya,Ahimsa and Indriya Nigraha and stop these fake posturings rooted in prejudice and ignorance.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Jnana, Bhakti and Karma

Nithin Sridhar

Karma, Bhakti and Jnana are the three main elements that are necessary for spiritual evolution. Every path to the supreme contains these elements- be it a Karma Yoga, or a Jnana Marga or a Bhakti. Moksha or Liberation is attained only through Atma-Jnana/Brahma-Jnana (i.e. Self-Realization), but one can attain Jnana through multiple paths like- Karma Yoga, Bhakti Yoga, Bhakti-Yoga, Raja yoga etc.

Every path involves two stages, the lower or preparatory stages through which one develops required qualities like- discrimination, dispassion, one-pointed concentration etc. And the second or higher stage wherein one is initiated and guided by a Guru towards Atma-Jnana.

Irrespective of the paths chosen, a person who wishes to attain Atma-Jnana, must develop dispassion towards worldly/sensory objects. He must renounce the sensory attachments and pleasures. He must develop firm discrimination between God who is real and eternal and the world which is temporary and unreal.Further, he should develop one pointed concentration, complete withdrawal from senses and external influences, faith in scriptures and complete surrender. These qualities that form basic qualifications for Jnana Sadhana or Moksha Sadhana is called as "Sadhana-Chatushtaya".

A person would be able to attain these qualities only through the practice of Karmas (Karma Anushtana) and Devata-Upasana (i.e.Apara Bhakti) as prescribed in the scriptures. Irrespective of the paths, one must learn the scriptures, live life according to them by performing the all Karmas and must practice meditation and other Upasana. Only in this way a person would be able to get rid of Shad-Ripus, the internal impurities like desire, anger, delusion, pride, jealousy and greed and hence attain purification of mind (Chitta-Shuddi). Only a purified mind would be able to develop the qualities like viveka, vairagya required for Moksha Sadhana.

A Karma Margi may give more stress on performance of Karmas and duties according to Shastras. A Jnana Margi may give more stress on learning, contemplating and implementing the essence of the scriptures. A Bhakti Margi may involve himself more in worship of his Ishta_Devata. A Raja margi may involve hismelf in implementing Yama, Niyama etc.But for sake of spiritual progress, they must incorporate tenets of other paths. A Jnana Margi, if he does not perform his prescribed duties and Karmas and does not practice Upasana, would merely remain as Scholar or Intellectual without being able to completely develop the qualities like Nishkaama dasha, Samarpana Bhava etc. Similarly, a person who practices rites and rituals alone, without cultivating Bhakti or Self-analysis, would not be able to develop viveka or ekagra-chitta. Again, a person who practices Devata-Upasana alone, would neither be able to develop viveka nor Nishkaama dasha fully. Hence, such people become stuck in their spiritual paths.

On the other hand, a genuine spiritual practitioner, studies the scriptures, contemplates and tries to imbibe qualities mentioned in it. He would perform faithfully all the duties and Karmas mentioned in it. Further, he would practice Worship of his Ishta-Devata and surrender all his fruits to Ishwara/God. By, such a practice of Jnana (i.e. Scriptural study/lower stage), Karma(i.e. Karma Anushtana) and Bhakti (i.e. Apara-Bhakti), one would develop Nishkaama Dasha and Samarpana Bhava. He would perform all his actions with sense of duty by surrendering the actions, fruits of action and the doership of action with a firm conviction that God alone is real and eternal. By, such a practice, he would achieve purification of mind and acquire qualities like discrimination, dispassion etc that are needed for Moksha Sadhana.

Having acquired the required qualities, a person becomes competent to practice Jnana Sadhana or Moksha Sadhana. This higher stage is also called as "Para-Bhakti". A Jnana margi, having developed a firm conviction that world is Unreal and Atman alone Real, will renounce the world and practice Atma Vichara-Self Enquiry and Atma Nidhidhyasa (SelfContemplation).

A Karma Yogi on other hand, would stay in the world and practice his duties with firm detachment and dispassion. He would perform actions without any sense of Doership and by surrendering everything to God with firm conviction that God alone is real and he inhabits everything in the Universe as their Innermost Self-Atman and a Jiva is merely an instrument through whom God/Atman manifests. Similarly, a Bhakti margi would practice "Para-Bhakti" by realizing that his Ishta Devata is not different from his own inner-most Self. Such, a Bhakta may completely renounce the world or may stay in the world. In both cases, having realized that Atman is God, he would be immersed in the Self Contemplation and worship.

Hence, by such Atma Vichara or Para-Bhakti or Karma Yoga or Samadhi one attains Atma Jnana and hence Moksha. Though the paths are many, the final destination as well as the intermediate milestone and the qualities required for them are same. Further, no path is a closed room distinct from the other. All the paths contain same principles and aim at developing same qualities. They only differ in practical implementation highlighting different principles in order to suite Sadhakas/spiritual-practitioners of different temperaments.

Saturday, August 03, 2013

Nirvana Shatkam- A Translation and Commentary

Nithin Sridhar

This is a beautiful poem written by Adi Shankaracharya, in which the state of Jnana, the Paramartika Satya is beautifully explained. Adi Shankaracharya explains how one should investigate into the true nature of Atman/Brahman by rejecting the Anatma’s (Non-Self) that are mere superimposition on Atman.

मनो बुद्ध्यहंकारचित्तानि नाहम् न च श्रोत्र जिह्वे न च घ्राण नेत्रे
न च व्योम भूमिर् न तेजॊ न वायु: चिदानन्द रूप: शिवोऽहम् शिवॊऽहम् ॥1॥

Meaning- I am not the Mind, Intellect, Ego and faculty of recollections (i.e. the 4 types of Antah-Karana); nor am I the faculty of hearing, faculty of taste, faculty of smell and faculty of sight (i.e. the Jnanendriyas- the faculties of perception). Nor am I the space, the earth, nor the fire/light nor the air (i.e. the Mahabhutas-the great elements). I am Shiva (Auspiciousness) of the nature of Consciousness and Bliss.

न च प्राण संज्ञो न वै पञ्चवायु: न वा सप्तधातुर् न वा पञ्चकोश:
न वाक्पाणिपादौ न चोपस्थपायू चिदानन्द रूप: शिवोऽहम् शिवॊऽहम् ॥2॥

Meaning- Neither am I (that which is called as) Prana (i.e. Mula-Prakriti), nor am I the five vital airs (i.e. Pancha Prana/Pancha Vayu), nor am I the seven-fold material (that make up gross body), nor am I the five sheaths. Neither am I the faculty of speech, nor the faculty of grasping (i.e. hands) nor the faculty of moving (i.e. legs), nor the faculty of procreation, nor that of excretion. ). I am Shiva (Auspiciousness) of the nature of Consciousness and Bliss.

Analysis of Verse 1 & 2- In the very first and second verses, Adi Shankaracharya proclaims that Atman is different from the gross/Stula, subtle/Sukshma and the casual body/Karana sharira of a Jiva.

न वा सप्तधातुर्- I am not even the Seven-fold material. सप्तधातु:- represents the seven type of materials that make up the gross body/Stula Sharira. They are Rasa/lymph or plasma, Rakta/blood, Mamsa/flesh, Meda/fat, Asthi/Bone, Majja/Marrow and Sukra/Semen. These seven Dhatus make up the Gross body/Stula Sharira of a Jiva. Here, Adi Shankaracharya is saying that, Atman is different than the Gross Body.

मनो बुद्ध्यहंकारचित्तानि नाहम्- I am not the mind, intellect, ego and the faculty of recollection.
अहम्-here represents the Atman, the one True Self. मनः-manas/mind, बुद्धि-buddhi/intellect, अहंकार- ahamkara/Ego and चित्त-chitta/faculty of recollection are the four-fold aspects of Antah-Karana (Totality of Mind). Manas is the lower mind that thinks about/discriminates between pros and cons of a thing and is always in indecision. Buddhi- is the higher mind that determines the true nature of an object and takes decision. Ahamakara is that which identifies itself with body as its own self. Chitta- is that which contemplates/indulges in things of interest/attraction or the faculty of memorizing and recollecting things. So, the verse is saying that, Atman is not the Antahkarana. Atman is neither the mind nor the intellect, ego and the chitta. Atman is different from all these.

न च श्रोत्र जिह्वे न च घ्राण नेत्रे- Neither am I the faculty of hearing, nor of taste, nor smell nor sight.
श्रोत्र-Faculty of hearing, जिह्वे-faculty of taste, घ्राण नेत्रे-faculty of smell and sight. These four faculties along with the faculty of touch form the Pancha Jnanendriyas/the five faculties of perception. त्वक्-faculty of touch/feeling though not mentioned in the verse explicitly, it is implicitly included as the other four Jnanendriyas are mentioned. So, the verse is saying that Atman is different from the Pancha-Jnanendriyas.

न वाक्पाणिपादौ न चोपस्थपायू- Neither am I the faculty of speech, nor of grasping nor movement nor procreation nor excretion. वाक्पाणिपादौ- Faculties of speech, of grasping (hands), of movement (feet). उपस्थ- faculty of procreation (genitals), पायू- faculty of excretion (anus). These five together form the Pancha Karmendriyas- the faculties of action. The verse is saying that Atman is different from these faculties of action.

न वै पञ्चवायु:- I am not even the five vital airs. पञ्चवायु-Five vital airs are Prana, Apana, Vyana, Udana and Samana. Prana causes respiration, Apana is the force that causes excretion, Vyana causes circulation,  Udana is the force that, at death carries Subtle body out of Physical body, Samana causes digestion and assimilation. The verse is saying that Atman is different from these Pancha-Vayus.

In short, Adi Shankaracharya is saying that Atman is different than the Subtle body/Sukshma Sharira that consists of the Antahkarana, Jnanendriya, Karmendriyas and the Pancha-Vayus.

न च व्योम भूमिर् न तेजॊ न वायु:- I am not the space, nor the earth, nor light/fire nor the air. व्योम-Space, भूमिर्-Earth, तेजॊ-Light/Fire and वायु-Air. These four along with अपः-water constitutes the Pancha Mahabhutas-the Five great elements. The water element is implicit in the verse. From the Sattvic and Rajasic portions of these elements are formed the Sukshma Sharira/ Subtle body of a Jiva. From the Tamasic portions of these elements, after they undergo a process of Panchikarana/ Quantuplication (1) the Stula Sharira/Gross body of a Jiva is formed. So, the verse is saying that Atman is different from these great elements, the Pancha MahaBhutas from which the Gross and the Subtle bodies are formed.

न च प्राण संज्ञो- I am not that which is called as Prana (i.e. Mula Prakriti). संज्ञो-is a noun, it is a designation. Hence, प्राण संज्ञो means “that which is called as Prana”. What is it that is referred as “Prana”? It is the Mula-Prakriti or Maya. (2). Hence, by saying that Atman is different from Mula-Prakriti, it is saying that Atman is distinct from the Karana Sharira/Casual body. Mula Prakriti which is the cause of this entire universe is called as Maha-Karana- the great cause. In context of a Jiva, it means that Atman is devoid of even the Casual body/Karana Sharira.

न वा पञ्चकोश:- I am not even the five sheaths. पञ्चकोश:- The five sheaths are the five layers of bondage and Ignorance that bounds a Jiva. The five sheaths are- Annamaya Kosha, Pranamaya Kosha, Manomaya Kosha, Vigyanamaya Kosha and Anandamaya Kosha.

Annamaya Kosha is the limitation placed on an individual in the form of gross existence/gross body. Anna denotes gross matter in general and food in particular. Hence, a Jiva in a gross body/Stula Sharira is ever dependent on gross external food for survival and is limited by the gross Universe. He is always subjected to birth, death, ill health, disabilities etc.

Pranamaya Kosha is made up of Pancha Vayus and the Karmendriyas. The Manomaya Kosha is made up of Manas and the Jnanendriyas. The Vigyanamaya Kosha is made up of Buddhi and the Jnanendriyas. There together represent the Subtle body/Sukshma Sharira. And a Jiva in the Pranamaya or Manomaya Kosha is subjected to limitations placed by subtle existence like fear, sorrow, illness, limited powers etc. But, a Jiva in Vigyanamaya Kosha though free from limitations of gross and subtle existence like hot and cold, sorrow and fear etc he is still limited by his attachment to his subtle existence in the sense that he cannot transcend it.

Anandamaya Kosha represents Mula-Prakriti or the Karana Sharira, the store house of all Karmas. Even, here an Individual is limited by his Karana Sharira/casual body. Hence, the verse is saying that Atman is different from and is devoid of these five sheaths that cause bondage.

If, Atman is neither the 3 bodies nor the 5 sheaths, then what is Atman? Adi Shankaracharya answers this thus.

चिदानन्द रूप: शिवोऽहम् शिवॊऽहम्- I am the Auspiciousness (Shiva), which is the very nature of Consiousness and Bliss. शिवोऽहम्- Atman is being defined as शिव- Auspiciousness. Why the Atman is called Auspiciousness? What does it mean? It means that Atman is Pure-Shuddham, devoid of any impurity. The worldly objects are called as “Ashuddham”-impure. Here, impurity or “Ashuddhi” refers to the property of an object to cause a feeling of good, bad or disgust towards it. The objects of the Universe, as they are able to cause feeling of happiness when attained, of sorrow when unable to attain and of disgust when one has no liking for it are called as “Ashuddha”. On the other hand, “Atman” is “Shuddha/pure”, that is free from impurities, free from any dualities. it causes neither a sense of pleasure nor a sense of pain or disgust. Instead, everyone feels drawn towards. Atman is “Ananda Svaroopa”- the very nature of supreme bliss. Further, it is” Chit-Svaroopa”, the very nature of Knowledge. Hence, Atman is called as “Shiva”- pure and auspicious which is of the nature of Knowledge and Bliss.

Summary of Verse 1 & 2- The whole Sristi/Jagat/Cosmos can divided into two categories- The Karana Brahman/Unmanifested source also called as Mula-Prakriti and the Karya Brahman/the Manifested Cosmos. Now, this Karya Brahman or Manifested Cosmos consists of subtle universes and the gross Universes. Hence, we have three state of existence-the Gross Existence, Subtle Existence and the Unmanifested state. A Jiva exists and experiences the Gross Universe through his Gross Body-Stula Sharira. Similarly, he experiences the Subtle Universe through his subtle body-Sukshma Sharira. In the Mula Prakriti, he exists in an Unmanifested state. This is called as Karana Sharira/Casual Body which is the store house of his Karmas and which causes the manifestation of subtle and gross bodies.

The Gross Body is made up of the blood, flesh, bone, marrow, plasma, semen and fat called as Sapta-Dhatu. A Jiva experiences the Gross Universe, in the Waking state/Jagrata avasta. The Subtle body is made up of Antahkarana, faculties of action and perception and the five vital-airs. In a Svapna avasta/Dreaming state, a Jiva will experience the subtle worlds through his Mind and subtle body. In a Deep Sleep/Sushupti avasta, in which a Jiva does not remember anything on waking except that he had a nice sleep, in such a state, a Jiva is experiencing his Casual body, the unmanifested state. The gross, subtle and the casual existences together form the Jagat. The five sheaths are nothing but five layers of limitations that are superimposed on Atman, because of Atman’s Self-Identification with the three bodies.

Hence, in the very first two verses, Atman is shown as being distinct from the gross, subtle and the casual body of a Jiva. Due to Avidya/Ignorance, a Jiva Self-Identifies himself with gross, subtle and casual body and thinks that (i.e. the bodies) to be True Self/Atman. Hence, he becomes engulfed by the five sheaths that limit his existence. But, in reality, Atman is devoid of all three bodies and hence devoid of all limitations. Atman, by his own power of Maya, manifests this Universe by covering itself with five sheaths of limitations and Self-Identifying with the three bodies-casual, subtle and gross. Hence, a Jiva who wishes to attain Moksha, must investigate into the nature of Atman/his own True Self and understand that Atman is different from and is devoid of all limitations, all bodies and sheaths. Atman is devoid of any Movement. It is of the very nature of Knowledge and Bliss and it manifests this entire universe not through Real creation or transformation but only as an appearance or imagination through its power of Maya.

न मे द्वेष रागौ न मे लोभ मोहौ मदो नैव मे नैव मात्सर्यभाव:
न धर्मो न चार्थो न कामो ना मोक्ष: चिदानन्द रूप: शिवोऽहम् शिवॊऽहम् ॥3॥

Meaning: Neither have I hatred nor desire (for anything), neither have I greed nor delusion, nor pride and nor even the feelings of jealousy. Neither have I (a need for or obligation towards) Dharma (i.e. practicing duties and righteousness), nor (towards) Artha ( i.e. procuring material wellness), nor towards Kama (i.e. fulfilling desires), nor towards Moksha (i.e. attaining Liberation-freedom from birth and death). I am Shiva (Auspiciousness) of the nature of Consciousness and Bliss.

Analysis of Verse 3: After explaining that Atman is devoid of any bodies or any sheaths, now Adi Shankaracharya explains about the state of Jnani who has realized Atman.

न मे द्वेष रागौ न मे लोभ मोहौ मदो नैव मे नैव मात्सर्यभाव:- Neither have I hatred nor desire (for anything), neither have I greed nor delusion, nor pride and nor even the feelings of jealousy. Lust, hatred, delusion, pride, jealousy, and greed these six are called as Arishadvargas- the six passions of mind because, all these feelings have their source in mind and also affect one’s mind. They are also called as Shad Ripus- the six internal enemies because, they are the impurities present in an Individual which makes an Individual act in a wrong and adharmic way. A person under the influence of these internal enemies commits Papam-Sins and hence would suffer as a result sorrow and pains (Dukka) thereby increasing the bondage to Samsara/World. But, Atman being devoid of any limitations or any bodies is also devoid of these six passions. Hence, a Jivanmukta, who has achieved Atma Jnana-Realized the Self, would be free from these internal passions of mind. A Jnani neither acts out of lust, nor out of hatred, or pride or jealousy. A Jnani having realized that the whole world is in his Atman and his Atman is in whole world (3), he always maintains Sama-drishti i.e.same-sightedness towards everyone.

न धर्मो न चार्थो न कामो ना मोक्ष:- Neither have I (a need for or obligation towards) Dharma, nor (towards) Artha, nor towards Kama nor towards Moksha. Dharma, Artha Kama and Moksha form the four-fold Purusharthas, the objectives of Human life. In context of an individual, Dharma refers to living one’s life according to tenets mentioned in the Shastras like Satya/Truthfulness, Asteya/Non-stealing, Ahimsa/Non-violence, Shaucha/cleanliness etc and performing Karmas and duties towards family and society as enjoined in the Shastras to the best of one’s ability and avoiding those actions that are prohibited in the Shastras like homicide, stealing etc. “Artha” refers to the wealth (both material and heavenly) one must attain through proper dharmic means, free from corruption and dishonesty. “Kaama” refers to any desires and dreams an Individual has. Those desires must be fulfilled through Dharmic means and not by resorting to adharmic means. These three refers to the goals pertaining to one’s immediate life. The ultimate goal of life is “Moksha” or liberation from Karmic cycle of birth and death. The practice of Dharma, Artha, Kaama sincerely by performing all Karmas prescribed in the Shastras (Karma Anushtana) and the practice of Bhakti (meditations etc) as advised in the Shastras would eventually lead a person to purification of his mind and then through the practice of Jnana-Sadhana, one would achieve Atma Jnana and Moksha. 

Hence, these objectives of life are prescribed for an individual who is living in the Samsara, and bound by it. On the other hand, a Jnani who has attained Atma-Jnana and has realized that Atman is everything and nothing else is left to be attained. Hence, a Jnani is no longer bound by any obligations to perform or attain any of the Purusharthas as he has already attained everything that was there to attain.

न पुण्यं न पापं न सौख्यं न दु:खम् न मन्त्रो न तीर्थं न वेदा: न यज्ञ
अहं भोजनं नैव भोज्यं न भोक्ता चिदानन्द रूप: शिवोऽहम् शिवॊऽहम् ॥4॥

Meaning: Neither have I Punyam (Good Karmas), nor have I Papam (Bad Karmas), (hence) neither have I happiness, nor sorrow. Neither have I (a need for or obligation towards) Mantra (i.e. practice of Mantra Sadhana/Vidya Upasana), nor (towards) visiting holy places, nor (towards) studying Vedas, nor (towards) performing Yajnas (i.e. Karma Anushtana).  I am neither the food (i.e. the object), nor the act of eating the food (i.e. the interaction between subject and object), nor the enjoyer/consumer of food (i.e. the subject). I am Shiva (Auspiciousness) of the nature of Consciousness and Bliss.

Analysis of Verse 4: Now this verse continuous with the explanations about Jivanmukta and state of Jnana.

न पुण्यं न पापं न सौख्यं न दु:खम् - Neither have I Punyam (Good Karmas), nor have I Papam (Bad Karmas), (hence) neither have I happiness, nor sorrow. As Atman is devoid of any Karmas or Limitations. there is nothing that can be called as Punya/good Karmas or Paapa/bad Karmas for a Jnani. A Jivanmukta having realized Atman, is also devoid of any bondage or ignorance. Hence, he is neither bound by the Karmas nor bound by Karmic fruits. Hence, he neither has Punya nor Paapam and correspondingly, he neither experiences Sukha/happiness nor experiences Dukka/sorrow. A Jnani is ever situated in Ananda/eternal Bliss.

न मन्त्रो न तीर्थं न वेदा: न यज्ञ- Neither have I (a need for or obligation towards) Mantra, nor (towards) visiting holy places, nor (towards) studying Vedas, nor (towards) performing Yajnas. Similarly, a Jnani is neither obliged to nor bound to perform any Mantra sadhana nor visit any holy places as he has become verily the Atman, which is everything that exist and is the nature of supreme bliss. मन्त्रो- refers to Mantra Sadhana or “Devata Upasana”. यज्ञ- refers to performance of fire-rituals (Yajnas) and other rituals enjoined in Shastras called as “Karma Anushtana”. तीर्थं- refers to visiting various holy places that are considered as “Punya Karmas”. वेदा- refers to study of Vedas by those who are competent for it. This is enjoined as a Duty of such a person in the scriptures. A person in the Samsara, who desires spiritual progress and attainment of Moksha, is instructed by the Shastras to perform the Karma Anushtana, Devata Upasana etc. But, a Jnani who having attained Moksha and have realized his own Atman, has already achieved whatever there was to achieve. Hence, he is devoid of all such obligations to performing any Karmas.

अहं भोजनं नैव भोज्यं न भोक्ता- I am neither the food (i.e. the object), nor the act of eating the food (i.e. the interaction between subject and object), nor the enjoyer/consumer of food (i.e. the subject). Here, the verse is again describing what Atman is not. The object that is enjoyed is the subtle and gross Universe. The Subject who is enjoying the Universe refers to the Prajna identifying itself with Mula-Prakriti. The act of enjoyment refers to the act of creation of Universe. The Brahman through his Maya imagines himself to be the cause of the Universe. This Brahman that is endowed with and identified with Maya/Mula Prakriti and is the cause of the Universe is called as Prajna/Ishwara/Karana Brahman/MulaPrakriti. This Prajna is the eater of the food, the subject, the enjoyer of the Universe. The whole Universe, both subtle and gross that manifest out of this Mula-Prakriti is called as food, the object of enjoyment. This Prajna exists as Hiranyagarba and enjoys the subtle Universe and as Virat enjoys the gross Universe. Hence, the verse is saying that the Atman is Turiya-the fourth state (i.e. Paramarthika Satya) beyond the three states of gross, subtle and the unmanifested. Atman is devoid of this duality of Subject and Object i.e. of Karana and Karya. Similarly, a Jivanmukta who is permanently rooted in Turiya or Paramartika is neither bound by subject nor by object. He is beyond all dualities. He perceives Atman alone everywhere.

न मे मृत्युर्शंका न मे जातिभेद: पिता नैव माता नैव न जन्म:
न बन्धुर् न मित्रं गुरुर्नैव शिष्य: चिदानन्द रूप: शिवोऽहम् शिवॊऽहम् ॥5॥

Meaning: Neither have I fear of death, nor caste distinction. I have neither father, nor mother, nor even birth. Neither have I any acquaintance, nor friends, nor any Guru/teacher, nor any Shishya/disciple.I am Shiva (Auspiciousness) of the nature of Consciousness and Bliss.

Analysis of Verse 5: This verse too continues with the description of a state of Jnana.

न मे मृत्युर्शंका न मे जातिभेद:- Neither have I fear of death, nor caste distinction. A Jnani who has gone beyond birth and death and attained Immortality, does not have any fear of death. Having realized his true Self, he is ever free without fear or sorrow. Further, a Jnani just like he was not bound by Purusharthas or the Karmas Anushtana, so also he is not bound by the distinction of caste. He is devoid of any restrictions, obligations and bondages that is present in Samsara.

पिता नैव माता नैव न जन्म: न बन्धुर् न मित्रं गुरुर्नैव शिष्य:- Neither have I father, nor mother, nor birth, nor acquaintance nor friend nor teacher nor disciple. A Jnani has no worldly attachments or relationships. Having realized that everything is his Atman alone, for him everyone is his own. There are no special bonds, special relationships with any. He is free from any Rina-Bandha, the Karmic bond that binds people. He remains as ever free.

Summary of Verse 3, 4 & 5: After explaining that Atman is devoid of the three bodies and the five sheaths and hence devoid of any limitations, Adi Shankara now explains the state of Jnana-the Paramarthika Dasha. He says that, a Jnani having realized his Atman, having realized that Atman alone exist and everything is Atman, he is neither affected by happiness nor sorrow. He neither craves for anything nor avoids anything. A Jnani is free from the mental feelings like Lust, hate, greed, jealousy etc. A Jnani remains Same-Sighted towards everyone. He is neither bound by duties of Varnas (i.e. the duties related to four-Varnas) nor bound by the obligations of Ashramas (i.e. the duties related to four stages of life) not even the Purusharthas or the Vedas bind him. He neither has birth, nor death. Having attained immortality, he is devoid of all fears including the fear of death. He has neither acquaintance nor any special rina/bond with anyone. Having transcended all the bondages, he is ever free. He is devoid of the duality of subject and object as Atman is Homogenous One without a second and without parts.

अहं निर्विकल्पॊ निराकार रूपॊ विभुत्वाच् सर्वत्र सर्वेन्द्रियाणाम्
न चासंगत नैव मुक्तिर् न मेय: चिदानन्द रूप: शिवोऽहम् शिवॊऽहम् ॥6॥

Meaning: I am the Changeless one without a second, without a form, All-powerful, Omnipresent who inhabits all the senses. I am not Un-related (i.e. related to everything as their Atman/Inner Self), neither do I have Liberation, nor do I have Limitation. I am Shiva (Auspiciousness) of the nature of Consciousness and Bliss.

Analysis of Verse 6: Now, after explaining what Atman is not, now the last verse explains, what Atman is.

अहं- I. Here it means “Atman”.

निर्विकल्पॊ- Changeless one without a second. It refers to One Truth without an alternative, without a second entity. That is, Atman alone exists and whatever exist, it is Atman alone. Further, निर्विकल्पॊ means “without change or modifications”. The Universe or Jagat/Srishti is subjected to six stages of changes called as “Shad-Vikaras”. They are Potential form, Birth, Growth, Transformation, Decay and Death. But, Atman being Eternal and Birth-less, is without these changes i.e. Atman is not subjected to these modifications. Hence, it implies that Atman is devoid of Srishti. In the Paramartika state, there is neither creation nor dissolution. Hence, no Universe exists in Reality. The whole Jagat manifested by Brahman through his power of Maya in the form of imagination or mirage.

निराकार रूपॊ- Of the nature of formlessness. The Jagat or Srishti/Universe is full of forms. The Manifested Universe has infinite number of names and forms. The Unmanifested Prakriti is in a state of Unmanifestation or Seed i.e. a state of form-fullness where all the infinite forms are in seed state. Hence, by निराकार it is meant that, Atman is devoid of both Karya Brahman (Manifested Universe full of forms) and the Karana Brahman (Unmanifested seed in a state of form-fullness). Hence, in Paramartika dasha, state of Absolute Reality, the Atman is devoid of Jagat i.e. Jagat does not exist. In other words, the existence of Jagat is only through Maya in the form of mirage or imagination.

विभुत्वाच् सर्वत्र सर्वेन्द्रियाणाम्- All-powerful, Omnipresent who inhabits all the senses. In the Vyavaharika dasha (the state of Duality or Samsara) i.e. in the Jagat/Srishti, the Brahman/Atman is Omni-present and Omnipotent. It is He, who inhabits everything and everywhere including the senses as their True-Self.

न च असंगत (4) - I am not Un-related. Atman is not Un-related means, Atman is related to everything as their Inner-most Self. In the Jagat, in Vyavaharika dasha it is Atman alone who inhabits everything as their own Self (5). Hence, he is related to everything.

नैव मुक्तिर् न मेय:- Neither do I have Liberation, nor do I have Limitation. In Paramartika Dasha, there is neither creation nor dissolution, neither liberation nor limitation. Atman is eternal and free from all kinds of limitations.  मेय:- means measurable or finite. It refers to the Upadhis or Limitations present in the Jagat/Universe like time, space and form by which an object is limited by and also is measured/determined in reference with. Atman is being described as devoid of these defining./measuring parameters i.e. Atman is Infinite beyond any limitations. Similarly Atman is devoid of Liberation. When, there is no Bondage or Limitation on Atman, no question of Liberation or freedom from bondage arises for Atman.

चिदानन्द रूप: शिवोऽहम् शिवॊऽहम्- I am Shiva (Auspiciousness) of the nature of Consciousness and Bliss. As explained before.

Summary of Verse 6: After explaining what Atman is not and explaining about the state of Jivanmukta, Adi Shankaracharya now explains what Atman is. In the Paramartika Dasha, Atman is one, without a second, without parts. It is without any limitations of time, space or form. It is one Changeless, that is eternal, infinite and Birth-less. It is devoid of the Universe/Jagat and all its limitations. Yet through its power of Maya, it manifests the Universe as a mirage or imagination. And in such a state of manifestation or Vyavaharika Dasha, Atman inhabits every object, everything in the Universe as their own Self. It is omnipresent and omnipotent and both the material and intelligent cause of the Universe. Adi Shankaracharya concludes the Nirvana Shatakam by repeating that, Atman is Shiva-Auspiciousness which is of the nature of Knowledge and Bliss.


1.    Panchikarana is the process of Grossification/Quantuplication from which the Physical Universe is created. The five great elements in Subtle form undergo Panchikarana process and create the Gross elements and hence the Physical Universe. The Tamas portion of each of the five subtle elements divides itself into two halves. The one half is reserved for that element and the other half is further divided into four parts to be associated with the other elements. Hence, each gross element is formed by combination wherein its one half is made up of its own element and the other half consist of one-eighth of all the other four elements. Panchadashi Verse no-26-27.

2.    Chandogya Upanishad 6.8.2. For detailed discussion on why Prana is Mula-Prakriti, refer Shankara Bhashya on Gaudapada Karika on Mandukya Upanishad, Agama Prakarana, Verse 2.

3.    Isha Upanishad Verse 6 & 7.

4.    Some interpret it as- न च संगत- Without attachment. In that case, it means that Atman is unaffected, untouched by the limitations and impurities of the Universe. Atman is pure and unattached towards the sensory objects.

5.    Isha Upanishad Verse 1.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Badges that say 'I Respect Women'

Pratyasha Nithin

(This article was published in UDAY INDIA weekly on December 1st, 2012 in both internet and print editions)

Recently, a news report was published in The Telegraph (July 18, 2013) about Tourism Ministry wanting to promote “I Respect Women” badges across the hospitality industry to assure the women tourists (especially the foreigners tourists) that it is safe to travel in India. The report said that the badges would be printed in 10 languages- Hindi, Arabic, Chinese, French, Spanish, Italian, Korean, Russian, German and Japanese. The badges are planned to be distributed to the auto-rickshaw and taxi drivers, guides, coolies, travel agents and all personnel likely to interact with tourists. Further, the tourism minister K.Chiranjeevi was quoted as saying- “Anyone wearing this badge is standing up and declaring that he will always respect women. That he cannot be counted among the people who assault women". This may turn out to be a good start, but how are we going to make sure that the people who will wear these badges will actually mean those words?

It’s easy to wear a badge and it will surely help raise confidence in women to travel fearlessly. But what if a man wearing this badge actually does not implement the words printed on it and instead mistreats the woman who had believed in him? Will the woman be able to trust a man ever? I believe, this kind of incident will fill her heart with anger and hatred for the whole man-kind. Hence, as a first step these badges are a good idea but it should be followed with comprehensive measures to make sure that, the people who wear those badges also implement the words “I respect women”.  .

In India, there are a large number of men who do not consider women as an equally important part of the society. Some of them think that women are only to do the household works and to raise kids. Many others may allow their women to work and do what they wish for, but the very fact that women are being “allowed” to do something, work or otherwise shows that, there is no freedom and personal space for women in such households. A marriage is supposed to be one of commitment and not compromise, one of liberty, personal space and understanding and not of restrictions and compromises where the women are made to take permission before doing anything. The reason forwarded for such restrictions are that those men care for their women and want them to be secure. But the question is who is making the life of women insecure? Is it not men themselves?

The society is so corrupt that it is unable to see the hypocrisy hidden within it. The men may visit Vaishno Devi every year but in many of their houses the women are treated as nothing more than a servant. Some women raise their voices but most do not because of the typical mentality that it is the right of a man to have his way around woman. And it is this attitude which should change.

In another news report, a retired government employee was arrested for allegedly raping his five daughters for twenty years (Business Standard, July 17, 2013). This case came to light only when the accused man tried to misbehave with his three year old granddaughter due to which his daughter, the mother of the child, lodged the complaint against him. The five sisters remained silent all those years of sexual abuse. If the eldest sister had raised her voice when she was abused, the abuse of her younger sisters could have been averted. It has come to light that, even the wife of the accused was aware of her husband’s activities and supported him.

These kinds of men, who treat their women badly, could be anywhere. He may be a company head or an auto-rickshaw driver on the road. Now if these men cannot respect the women of their own family, can we expect them to respect the women of other families? The answer is a simple “No”. Similarly, those men, who cannot respect the women of their own country, how can we expect them to respect the women of other countries? Do we have a mechanism to know how the taxi drivers, travel agents and all the personnel likely to interact with tourists treat their women in their houses? If not, then can we really expect that by making these people wear badges, the women touring the country will be safe? I don’t think so.

The root of all these problems faced by women lies in the mentality and thinking of the society, both men and women, who always hold a woman responsible for every abuse, violence or any other crimes that are committed against women. Whenever an incidence of rape or sexual assault comes to news, it is often heard both from the ‘representatives’ of society and from the common folks in the neighborhood about how women who visit pubs or make acquaintance with men are asking to be abused and raped. The character of a woman is always the first thing that is questioned. Why do we, the members of this society always indulge in this blame game? Can we not just introspect ourselves and recognize that the only fault that exists in the society is in its mindset that does not respect women, that does not recognize women as being as much human beings as men. No matter what a woman is asking for, can the society not respect them and stop doubting the character of women? Even if a woman is a prostitute or stands naked in front of a man, the man does not get the right to mistreat or rape her. Yet, abuse of women- verbal, physical, mental and sexual happen every other day at the hands of both men and women of society. And each time, it is the victimized woman who is blamed.

The only solution I see is a drastic change in the mentality and thinking of people happening on a large range. The people of India who were once famous for holding the best moral values, needs to learn the lesson of morality again. They need to understand that their one act of misbehavior could be the worst memory of somebody’s life. We must realize how the Indian society has failed as a whole, that today we need to put on badges like “I respect Women” to let the women know that they are safe and respected. Is it not shameful that the people of other countries will have to judge us not by our attitude and behavior but by the badges on our shirts?

It is high time, that we the people of India decide what we want to do. It is our choice, it’s in our hands. Do we want India to be safe for every woman (Indian or Western)? Or do we want India to be branded world-wide as a country of women exploiters unsafe for female tourists? Burning of fire-cracks at every Indian victory in a cricket match is not patriotism. If anybody really cares about India and its people, one must first learn to treat women with respect and as an inseparable and equally important part of the society. The Government, need to implement an elaborate education and awareness campaigns and workshops if it really means to imprint in the minds of the people the words “I respect Women” that are supposed to be printed on badges. People should also be made aware of their legal rights and about the punishments that are handed over to people who commit these crimes. Men and women must take initiative and volunteer to carry forward such social awareness programs on a large scale so that it reaches one and all. Schools should come forward with programs to train young girls in self-defense. It was reported some time ago (Indian Express, January 10, 213) about Maharashtra government’s proposals to open a special wing of Mumbai Crime Branch, specifically to investigate crimes against women. It was also proposed that some of the fast-track courts would be specifically used for dealing with crimes against women. Such proposals must be implemented throughout the country in all cities and towns. Every police station, especially in the cities must have a separate division to register and promptly take action against crimes committed on women. A patrolling squad consisting of people from the immediate neighborhood must be formed everywhere in the cities to monitor and prevent any untoward incidents against women. The people who volunteer for such patrolling duties must be adequately trained by the Police. Unless and until the government takes some positive initiatives regarding the education of the masses about the need to change the social outlook towards women that currently has nothing but contempt for them and also implement measures to check and prevent the crimes that are committed on women, the present decision to print badges with taglines “I respect women” printed on them would be nothing more than a political posturing.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

A deity can either be God or god or both

Nithin Sridhar 

(A shorter version of the article has been published in July 2013 issue of Hinduism Today Magazine under the title "God's the Answer".)

The basic philosophy of any religion (1) relies on the acceptance of the existence of God and that of atheism on the rejection of such existence. Among theists, there have been lengthy debates, arguments and fights regarding what this God constitutes if it exists? Whether God is one or many? Whether it is God or it is god (Upper case and lower case "G")?

In an Indian scenario, we have on one extreme Monotheists claiming presence of one absolute God separate from world and on the other we have polytheists believing in presence of multiple gods, goddess and demi-gods. And apart from this, we also have Monists who claim the presence of "Only God" (denying even an existence for world separate from God). But Hindu religion as a whole has always been consistently assimilating all these apparently divergent streams of thought into a coherent and all-embracing philosophy of life. This has been possible because there is an inherent awareness in the society that every person is on the same path seeking same goal, some ahead and some behind. This truth is best illustrated in the words of ancient Rishis of Rigveda. While speaking about the “Vishwadevas” (all the gods and goddess), they boldly proclaim-

“They call him (God) Indra, Mitra, Varuṇa, Agni, and he is heavenly nobly-winged Garutmān.
To what is One, sages call by many names like Agni, Yama, Mātariśvan” (2).

In modern times, a similar message was given to mankind by Swami Vivekananda. According to him, "Man is not travelling from error to truth, but climbing up from truth to truth; from truth that is lower to truth that is higher (3).”  The realization of this simple truth among people has been best expressed in the concept of deity and its worship.

Our scriptures say that God (Brahman) which is formless manifests itself into infinite number of forms. And each such form represents a specific aspect of the Brahman. A deity is a specific aspect of Brahman which has a rupa-form and Shakti-power associated with that aspect. For example, If Brahman/Para-Shakti is divided into 10 aspects, we get the ten Mahavidhyas. If the Para-Shakti is divided into 64 parts, we get the Yoginis. In other words deities are the personification of the various forces that drive the Cosmos. Also they are personifications of the various phenomenon’s that happen throughout the universe.

For example, when the Brahman manifests the Universe, He becomes Shiva-Gowri. When the Brahman absorbs back the Universe, he becomes MahaKaLa-MahaKaLi. Shiva is personification of the sum total of all manifestation and Gowri is that aspect of Shakti which causes the manifestation/projection of the Universe. Shiva and Gowri are White as white represents Purity and the manifestation/Cosmos. Shakti takes the form of KaLi when the projection is drawn back into Brahman. KaLi causes Laya/absorption of manifestation back into Brahman. KaLi is black which represents her ability to absorb everything into herself.

From the view-point of society, we have Grama Devatas, Kula Devatas, Gruha Devatas and Ista Devatas. Grama Devatas are basically the guardian deities of the villages. Kula Devatas are the guardian deities of a clan, lineage or a bloodline. The Gruha Devatas refers to the guardian deities of the family. Finally the Ista Devata refers to the deity a person choose based on his personal inclination. A person may take any one among the Grama, Kula and Gruha devatas as his own Ista or he can also choose some other deity which attracts him most.

The concept of deity, especially the “Ista devata” can be considered in many senses as a unique contribution of Hindu religion to whole world not only in terms of its theological and spiritual value but also in terms of promoting world harmony. In simple words, any person can connect with God/Cosmos (4) in the way he feels inclined to or is comfortable with. This world view will completely remove any cause for troubles and intolerances because the conception of a deity is completely dependent upon the devotee who worships it. And no two people ever conceptualize or approach a deity in an exactly same manner.

Some people may conceptualize their deity to be Nirguna-Nirakara Brahman (Formless and Attributeless God). For some other the deity may be one of the manifestations of the formless God which does have a roopa-form and guna-attributes. For some, the deity may be only a maintainer (Vishnu-god) or a destroyer (Shiva-god) of Universe. For others the same deity may be the ultimate God whom they call as “Narayana/Sada-Shiva”. For some the deities may be just the forces of nature like fire-Agni or wind-Vayu. And for some other’s they may be mind-manas or soul-atman. A deity can either be God or a god or at times both and at times neither depending upon what a devotee seeks.

The deity-devotee relationship is an intimate connection that heavily depends on the spiritual clarity and mental earnestness of the devotee. The more is the longing and Bhakti-love a devotee has, closer he is to the deity and clearer will be his understanding of Universe. Every devotee perceives his deity according to his tastes and inclinations. Hence, this perception would be very limited. The devotee then projects this limited perception on the the limitless God. Hence, the God projects to the devotee as a deity with limitations. The closer a devotee gets to the deity, the purer his mind will become and his perception will start losing limitations. The only way this is possible is through Sadhana.

Sadhana in general may refer to any action put to achieve a desirable goal. Swami Chidananda of Divine Life society defines sadhana as “the active effort to obtain that which is possible of being obtained through effort (5)”.  And this goal for which Sadhana is done defines the nature of relationship between the Sadhak and the Deity. A person may desire to have unlimited wealth, health, prosperity, offspring etc and he will do sadhana just to obtain them. This is called Kamya Sadhana. Such a person will invoke and worship a specific god who could fulfill their desires. A deity is a god for these people. For example, a Lakshmi-Kubera Homa is done only for purpose of getting wealth. A Mahamrityunjay Homa is done to ward of diseases and deliver long life to a person.

Further, even among the people who desire only for God Realization, most cannot contemplate on Formless one. Hence, they perfect their sadhana of a particular deity who will in-turn lead them to the Ultimate Formless one. In Tantras they say, first worship the Mother, reach her; then, she will lead you to Father. Such sadhaks worship Deity as God with form. It may be Ganesha or Durga, Shiva or Tara, they worship it as Saguna Brahman itself.

Take the example of Lord Ganesha. From the puranic stories we come to know that, Ganesha is the son of Parvati and Shiva. Further, he is the leader of Ganas (the fierce followers of Shiva, hence the name Ganesha) and that he is the remover of obstacles. Most people would love to worship Ganesha in his child form who loves to eat sweet food. They worship the deity with above mentioned attributes and pray to him to solve their problems. For them, Ganesha is only a “god” with limited attributes and power. Hence, by their worship, they are connecting with the limited aspect of this Cosmos/God who has the power to remove obstacles in their path.

Then, there are sadhaks (Spiritual practitioners) who worship “Ganesha” as the lord of Muladhara chakra (located at the perenium) who governs “Bhu” loka (The Physical/Material realm of existence). For them, worship of Ganapathi is the key to awaken Kundalini and to make her rise through the Sushumna Nadi (Channel). Hence, they connect with the God/cosmos through their worship and gain power-Shakti to raise their Kundalini. For these Sadhak’s too Ganesha is only a “god”.

Further, there are also those people who worship Ganesha as the Nirakara-Nirguna Brahman. They recognize Ganesha as God, the Ultimate truth, the whole Cosmos. For them, Ganesha is the creator, Maintainer and destroyer of Universe. This view about Ganesha can be found beautifully expressed in the following lines from Ganapathi Atharva shirsha-

Twameva Pratyksham Tatvamasi | (You are the Only Truth)
Twameva Kevalam Kartasi | (You are the creator of the Universe)
Twameva Kevalam Dhartasi |(You are the maintainer of the Universe)
Twameva Kevalam Hartasi |(You are the destroyer of the Universe)
Twameva Sarvam Khalvidam Brahmasi | (You are the Brahman/God who exists everywhere)
Twam Sakashadatamasi Nityam (You are the eternal soul present inside everyone).

It further says-

Twam Gunatrayatitaha | (You are beyond the three gunas-Tamas, Rajas and Sattva)
Twam Dehatrayatitaha | (You are beyond the three bodies- Sthula, Sukshma and Karana)
Twam Kalatrayatitaha | (You are beyond the three time periods- past, present and future)
Twam Brahmastvam, Twam Vishnustvam Rudrastvam Indrastvam Agnistvam
Vayastvam Suryastvam Chandramastvam Brahmabhurbhurvaswarome||
(You are Brahma, You are Vishnu, You are Rudra, You are Indra, Agni, Vayu, Surya, Chandra, You are the Brahman/God who exists in everywhere)

Next comes the category of people who neither worship God nor worship any god. For them, a deity is just Shakti (Energy/Power). They are the Aghoris- the Shakti Sadhakas, people who do sadhana to gain powers. They occupy themselves in understanding different aspects of the working of the cosmos and gaining power to control them. They dive deep in the darkness to reach light. Each deity represents a specific aspect of Para-Shakti. They do sadhana of the said deity to achieve that Shakti. In case of Ganesha, many use the sadhana of him to understand the workings of Bhu-Loka (Physical realmn) and control it. There are also a small section of tantriks who does indulge in Shat Kriyas like Vashikarana (Controlling) and Marana (Killing) and use these Shakti’s wrongly. But, others use their Shakti’s to ultimately merge with the Cosmos/Para-Shakti.

Few people like Ramakrishna Paramahamsa exist, who even after having experiencing the Brahman in Nirvikalpa Samadhi (The highest state of Samadhi), continued to worship his Ista Devi KaLi Bhavatarini. For him, KaLi was both the God and the god. She was both with form and without form.
Hence, a devotee who may at first see Ganesha as just a remover of obstacles, with spiritual growth will come to realize that Ganesha is also the Lord of Physical realm. If the devotee keeps walking on the path of sadhana, he will realize that Ganesha is not a god with limitations and attributes, but Formless Omnipotent God. Deeper if he proceed, the devotee will realize that Ganesha is both the God and the god. That the formlessness and the forms are both his own manifestation and hence equally real.

Another simple example that illustrate this phenomenon could be that of Sandhya Vandana-The worship of Sun. The Sandhya worship at its outset appears like a prayer to the Sun who gives the warmth and Light to earth. This appears as a show of gratitude towards nature. If one digs deeper, one will understand that the Sandhya worship is not just a prayer to the external sun which is the center of our solar system and emitting the heat and light using nuclear fusion. But the worship also entails an understanding and a prayer towards this whole cosmos which is at every moment keeps changing, evolving and dissolving. On a deeper level, it is a prayer towards the whole existence, the multiple cosmos that exist and the source, the energy that manifests the Whole. Ultimately, it is worship towards the Innerself, The atman which is the very “Whole” present inside the each of its particle.

In both cases, one can see how a devotee proceeds from his “Limited” understanding of God into “Direct experience of Limitless truth”; how his understanding of deity changed from being limited god to being Omnipotent God who existed as formless and yet manifested infinite number of forms. This spiritual insight about the nature of Cosmic truth (Satya) and its infinite ways of expression has been the very foundation of the “all-embracing and tolerant way of life” that Hindu Dharma propounds. This truth has been imbibed into every Shastras-scriptures that were composed, every rituals that were codified, into every art forms that found its expression. It manifested into every aspect of life making Hindu society, a most diverse yet relatively harmonious one in whole world.

(1)The term "religion" here used specifically in the sense of "theistic religions" and it does not refer to atheistic systems like Buddhism and Jainism.

(2)इन्द्रं मित्रं वरुणमग्निमाहुरथो दिव्यः स सुपर्णो गरुत्मान | एकं सद विप्रा बहुधा वदन्त्यग्निं यमं मातरिश्वानमाहुः || - Rigveda 1.164.46.
(3)Sister Nivedita, “Our Master and his Message”, Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda,
(4)According to Hindu Philosophy, God is sum total of All existence. He is the whole existence. Hence, God and Cosmos are not different.“Isa vasyam Idam Sarvam” (Ishopanishad)
(5)Swami Chidananda, “Special Insights Into Sadhana No-1”,

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Revival of Hindu Dharma

Nithin Sridhar

Often, it is heard that Hinduism is suffering from image-crisis and that Hindus should embark on aggressive marketing of their religion. Is Hinduism really suffering from image-crisis? The answer is yes. But is this the disease itself? No, it is only a symptom of a deeper disease. Hence, it cannot be solved by any "aggressive marketing".

India is facing a spiritual crisis and it is this crisis that has manifested as social, political, economic and cultural crisis. For, someone to teach about religion, teach about Dharma, he should first KNOW it and must have implemented it? How many of us even care to study religion? How many of us even care to understand the traditions that have passed down to us?

Largely, there are four kinds of people in our society. The first is the English educated 'secular' kind, that looks down upon everything that is remotely connected to Hinduism. For them, Hinduism is nothing more than a combination of superstition, vodoo, sex, violence, untouchability etc etc. These people are not only ignorant about Hindu tradition, culture and philosophy; they also DO NOT have any interest to know them. Then, there is the second kind, which takes pride in everything remotely connected to Hindu name. They neither understand Dharma nor understand Tradition. They are as ignorant as the 'secular' kind, but they have this misplaced understanding that "they know Hinduism, this and this is our culture etc etc". And these people are harming our religion more than the 'secular' folk. These people know nothing but abusing people or using violence in name of religion. They have only interest with the "Political Identity" of Hindu and not with religion of Hinduism. Hence, they are ignorant of Dharma too and have no interest in it too.

Then, there is the third kind, the followers of modern self-claimed gurus and satsang, who think that singing bhajans or listening to lectures on weekends is religion and Dharma. They are blinded by their own kind of superstitions and never move beyond them. They are actually not interested in Dharma, they are only interested in fulfillment of their self-fish desires. Now, coming to the fourth kind, this is the silent majority which does not belong to any of the above group completely but may join them at some point of time. These are the people that are brought up in so called traditional families, but are never taught about tradition or practices. They do the rituals, do the ceremonies mechanically and only think of their personal lives and careers. These are the silent Hindus, whose knowledge of religion is restricted to doing ceremonies and celebrating festivals without ever understanding the meaning and symbolism behind them. These are Apolitical Hindus, who are religious only with respect to external exhibitionism and not internal implementation.

This is the malaise that has afflicted our society. When people do not follow the basic Dharma, what is called as "Samanya Dharma" like Satya, Asteya, etc in their life, what more can we expect from them? What will we advertise? the rot that has set it? People either think Sex is taboo, a filthy sin or call it pornography, when our scriptures, call us to treat Sex as just sex. They call us, to even turn the sexual pleasure into a spiritual bliss. And what the present society has made it to be? On one hand we have a person like M.F.Hussain who exhibits his perversion by painting Sita in suggestive positions on Hanuman, when any such incident is not at all mentioned in scriptures. On the other hand, we have people who deliberately want an idol or image of KaLi to be covered up in saree or ornament, when the scriptures explicitly call her "Digambari". People compare, Hindu sculptures to pornography on one hand, and others find excuses to explain it. Is it so difficult to understand that Sex is a part of life and Hinduism stands on 4 Purusharthas? And hence, such a depiction of Sex on temple walls is completely proper?.On one hand we have, people who insult Hinduism by calling us the worshippers of Shiva's genitals and on the other hand we have Hindus who take offense at such an ignorant insult and try their best to prove that Linga does not mean "Phallus". When the fact is, Linga does mean "Phallus" among other meanings like mark, pillar etc. And all of the meanings are equally valid. Shiva does represent the cosmic male principle and Shakti the cosmic female and their union creates the Universe, and on a physical level it is portrayed in the act of Sex. Yatha Pinde, tatha Brahmande.

But, for people this is very difficult to understand. No one wants to know the Truth. People just want to live with their delusions and superstitions. So, what should we teach and to whom should we teach? Do we know anything to teach in first place? The best we can do is to learn it ourselves. One should be open minded and examine the teachings, understand them and finally implement them. One must perform Sadhana; one must first discover his/her Life's purpose and then work towards it. But, today people are not interested in Sadhana. They don’t have time for any rituals or meditation. For them it is useless. This mind-set should change. People should start living their life according to the Dharmic values, performing all their duties with an attitude of Truth and Surrender. They should spend their time in the study of scriptures. Whatever little they could read, they must internalize the message and implement it. They should spend little of their time in a performing regular sadhana- it may be jap, homam, meditation or bhajan. They should surrender themselves to God and develop qualities like Satya, Asteya, Nishkaama Dasha, etc. It is these qualities that form the foundation of our religion. We do not need any aggressive advertising. All we need is to the Hindus to give up superstitions and narrow mindsets and start living their life according to Dharma, practicing all their duties, making the very life into a Sadhana. One must develop Shraddha/faith in our religion and in our scriptures. We must understand them and then put to them to practice in life.

The present condition is bad, but by our efforts, the future can be made better. It is indeed possible to revive the Sanatana Dharma. I am very optimistic that in the years to come, things will change. The change has already started. For, the divine mother, nothing is impossible. The time has come, when India, our motherland will rise again and the flag of Dharma will be hoisted again.

Jai Maa KaLi, Jai Maa Bharati