Namaskaar. In previous part 9 and this Part 10 the author takes a small diversion from the Kathopanishat commentary and discusses some very important concepts of Vedanta to drive home the subtle teachings of the Upanishad. Reading the dialogue between the student and the teacher, both of whom were masters of Vedanta thinking, one gets a complete overview of the teachings of the Vedas, Upanishad, and all later scriptures and texts.
[We are seeing here the presence of discrimination and dispassion that were engendered and nurtured in the case of Sri Srinivasa Sastry (as Jagadguru Abhinava Vidyateertha MahaswamigaL of Sringeri was known in His pre-monastic life.]
All the queries raised earlier by Sri Srinivasa Sastry were thus categorically answered by Paramacharyal (Sri Chandrashekhara Bharati MahaswamigaL, the then Pontiff of the Sringeri PeeTham); neither He nor Vaidyanatha Sastry had mentioned them to Paramacharyal.
At times, nature seemed to aid Paramacharyal’s imparting of instructions about detachment. For instance, on one occasion, when Paramacharyal was proceeding to the Kalabhairava temple together with His students, a funeral procession was seen. On beholding the scene, Paramacharyal spontaneously identified the deceased one as a wealthy gentleman and gave out his name. He went on to say that that man was young and had been living in comfort. However, the Lord of Death, Yama, had not chosen to spare him.
At this juncture, Vaidyanatha Sastry cited the following verse that Paramacharyal had composed when in a state of seclusion.
dhanam vA dhAnyam vA bhavatu bahusho bhogyamapi vA
virAme ko brUte nanu chiram aham nirvRta iti |
prakopa-prodbhinna-prakaTa-yama-damshTrAm tu purataH
prapashyat-kim kuryAt-prasabham avasAne prabhurapi ||
(Though having much wealth, grains or objects of enjoyment, who says at the end of his life that he has been contented for long? On seeing in front of him the teeth of Yama bared in wrath, what can even a king do?)
On hearing this, Paramacharyal said, ‘There is a verse of Shankara Bhagavatpada in the prabodha-sudhAkara that is appropriate to this occasion and worthy of being cited.’ All but Sri Srinivasa Sastry remained silent. He chanted:
yo dehaH supto’abhUt supuShpa-shayyopa-shobhite talpe |
samprati sa rajju-kaaShThair-niyantritaH kShipyate vahnau || (I.25)
(The body that slept on a bed adorned with flowers is now taken, tied by ropes to logs, and consigned to fire.)
Paramacharyal explained the significance of the verse. He pointed out that the dead man had, even on the previous night, been in the midst of all comforts. His heart had suddenly collapsed while he was asleep and so he now lay tied by ropes to bamboos. He was about to be consigned to fire. This would be the fate of all and none was an exception.
nityam sannihito mRtyuH kartavyo dharma-samucchayaH
(Death is ever at hand. Hence, one should accumulate dharma.)
gRhIta iva kesheShu mRtyunA dharmamAcharet
(One should practice dharma (without delay) as if one’s tuft were in the grip of Death.)
We should perform our dharma and purify the mind so that we can obtain the realization of the Atman and become liberated from all misery. Only then will the goal of our lives have been reached. As He spoke, Paramacharyal’s gaze was constantly on Sri Srinivasa Sastry’s face. At that juncture, a woman’s wail was heard. Seeing the pitiful face of the dead rich man, his mother had given the cry of anguish. ‘Even the son that I gained after the observance of many a fast and vow has not lasted. Even if he had not been born, I would not have had to suffer my present deep anguish. Having got married, he has now left his young wife a destitute. Is this the only benefit of begetting progeny?’ wailed the disconsolate mother. Sri Srinivasa Sastry noted all this. ‘Is this the worth of ephemeral existence? I do not want this at all,’ He muttered. These words were heard by Vaidyanatha Sastry. From His facial expression Paramacharyal could readily comprehend His disciple’s state of mind. He felt glad that His teachings were having the desired effect.
On several occasions Paramacharyal spoke to Sri Srinivasa Sastry in private about detachment and brahmacharya (celibacy/continence). What follows is a brief account of the advice given in some of the private sessions. [They were narrated to the Author in detail by Acharyal, partly in 1977 and partly in 1984.]
(i) No amount of learning, wealth or enjoyment can confer total freedom from sorrow and everlasting bliss. Only the realization of the Truth can do so. Kingship, divine weapons, heavenly damsels and the power to even create a new universe did not, for instance, free Visvamitra from all unhappiness. In the chhAndogya upaniShad it is narrated that though versed in the veda-s and various shAstra-s, Narada continued to experience sorrow; he transcended all sorrows only when he received enlightenment from Sanatkumara.
labhdA vidyA rAjamAnyA tataH kim
prAptA sampat prAbhavADhyA tataH kim |
bhuktA naarI sundarAngI tataH kim
yena svAtmA naiva sAkShAt-kRto’abhUt || (anAtmasrIvigarhaNam (1))
(So what if learning respected by the sovereign himself has been acquired? So what if unsurpassed affluence has been obtained? So what if a belle has been enjoyed? What is there for him who has not realized his own Atman?)
Enlightenment dawns only in a very pure mind. Desires are impurities that sully the mind. To render the mind pure and fit for enlightenment, they must be assiduously eradicated.
(ii) Sense objects are not the source of happiness. It is a mistake to think that they are. Were an object intrinsically a source of joy to a person, he ought not to ever find it to be a pain. However, it is well known that objects are sometimes liked and sometimes disliked. For instance, to a person who develops severe nausea during a meal, the very dishes he found delectable appear to be unappealing and a burden to consume. How can an object intrinsically be a source of happiness to a person when, though remaining just the same, it is at times a bane to the very same person?
When a desire for an object arises in the mind, the mind loses peace and the period of longing is not one of joy. When the desired object is obtained, the desire that agitated the mind becomes temporarily quieted. With the calming of the mind there is joy. Thus calmness gives happiness and not desire or a sensory object. In deep sleep, when no sensory object whatsoever is apprehended and the mind is in a state of latency, there is very great happiness. The sage whose mind is very calm and focused on the Supreme has unsurpassed happiness.
Stable mental calmness can never be had by the gratification of longings. Though briefly quieting a desire, gratification only leads to the growth of the desire; the desire manifests again later, with increased strength. Desiring and striving for sense objects constitute, therefore, the wrong approach to obtain happiness, which is what all want. By discerning that sense objects are never the cause of happiness, one should develop detachment towards them. The dispassionate one is calm and happy.
(iii) There is great benefit in observing perfect brahmacharyA. For this, complete control over the mind is important. To achieve such mastery, one should avoid thinking of sense objects. The reason is that as one thinks of sense objects, one gradually develops a degree of attachment to them. When attachment is allowed to grow, it becomes an intense desire. When a powerful longing is permitted to manifest, it becomes difficult to check and uproot. When a man strongly desires some object or honour and a person or situation thwarts the consummation of his longing, he becomes irritated. When a man gives way to anger, he loses his power of proper discrimination between right and wrong. It is well known that an irritated man may be disrespectful even to his Guru. From delusion, the recollection of what one has been taught regarding righteous conduct is lost. This destruction of memory disrupts the functioning of the buddhi (intellect) and the man in this state is as good as destroyed. The seed of all this evil is thus thinking about sensory objects. So if you wish to control your mind, you must not allow your mind to cogitate upon the objects of the organs.
(iv) Married life is a big source of bondage. A householder has to cater not only to his own requirements but also to those of his family. Hence, he cannot devote himself entirely to meditation and such spiritual practices. Many are the people who get married and think that that course of life is good for them. Actually, for a discriminating person, family life is so full of misery that it is better to stand on burning coal rather than to get married.
The body is made up of skin, blood, flesh, bones and so on. It contains within it urine and faeces. The body of even the female whom the undiscriminating consider to be extremely beautiful is only of this kind. Bhagavatpàda has taught:
nArI-stana-bhara-nAbhI-desham dRShTvA mA gA moha-Avesham |
etan-mAmsa-vasAdi-vikAram manasi vichintaya vAram vAram ||
(Seeing the breasts and the navel region of a woman, do not fall a prey to delusion. The female form is but a modification of flesh, fat, etc. Reflect well thus in your mind, again and again.)
Such recourse to discrimination enables one to combat lust and be established in brahmacharyA.
[Acharyal has told me (the Author), ‘My Guru was so kind that even when I was too young (He was hardly 14) to be afflicted by passion, He emphasized the worthlessness of sensory pleasures and stressed the importance of dispassion and thereby precluded any scope for even the seed of passion finding a place in My mind. He rendered Me fit for SaMnyasa.’]
[End of excerpt from the book Yoga Enlightenment and Perfection]
We continue the study of the KathopaniShat Chapter 1, Section 2 in the next part.
To be continued ….
Pranaam from Kamal Kothari