Thursday, July 21, 2011

Great ladies of Vedic India - Story of Gargi

“Arrange the best of best one thousand cows in a pen. Tie ten big size gold coins to the horns of these cows.” ordered King Janaka to his servants. As the arrangement was made, the king turned to the Brahmins and said, “O’ learned Brahmins, I would like to know who the great scholar amongst you is. The one who knows the best about the Brahman, the Supreme Being. The one who is confident of his mettle can take these cows and the gold put on them. Yes, he will have to satisfactorily answer to all the questions anyone from this august gathering asks to him.”

King Janaka was a very generous and learned king. He had interest in philosophy and he himself was a great philosopher. This king of Mithila had organized a great yagya and Brahmins from various states had gathered to perform at the yagya. King then became curious to test the knowledge of the Brahmins.

The Brahmins became restless after the declaration of the king. They were hesitant to go ahead and take those cows and gold with them. Each one thought, if I take the cows with me and the rest of the Brahmins start debating with me, I will have to answer them. If I fail to satisfy the gathering, it will be a big embarrassment.

Yajnavalkya, the great sage, stood up from his seat and said, “Saumya, you take control of all these cows and take them to our Ashram.” Saumya was his celibate disciple learning Sam Ved. Saumya followed his Guru’s orders sincerely.

This action created a wave of restlessness amongst the lot of gathered Brahmins and they thought this is a matter of shame for them to be proved ‘less knowledgeable’ than Yajnavalkya.

Ashwala, the head priest of King Janaka, great scholar of Rigveda asked,”Yajnavalkya, do you think you are the most knowledgeable here?” Yajnavalkya humbly answered, “ I bow before the knowledgeable. Kindly let me know who is knowledgeable here?”

Ashwala thought he should interrogate Yajnavalkya. He asked many questions to Yajnavalkya, but Yajnavalkya answered them all. Many other Brahmins threw questions at Yajnavalkya and this great sage satisfied them all with his quick answers full of knowledge and wisdom. While some Brahmins were genuinely interested in knowledge and they asked relevant questions, some jealous of Yajnavalkya for winning the cows and gold asked foolish questions too.

Artabhaga, a very scholarly Brahmin rose and asked few questions. He was a much respected Brahmin for his knowledge. Yajnavalkya answered all his questions satisfactorily. Then Bhujyu, Ushasta and Kahol asked questions to Yajnavalkya and all got answers from him.

In the end rose a great lady named Gargi, the daughter of the sage Vachaknu. She was a very intelligent lady. Gargi had already asked a few questions, but now she asked the permission of the Brahmins to put forth a few more.

“I shall ask him two more questions, “ Gargi proposed. “Should he answer them, none of you will ever be able to beat him in this debate.”

In Vedic India, women had access to philosophical enquiry – and what tremendous self confidence we find in Gargi, daring a great sage Yajnavalkya to answer her questions!

Gargi asked, “O Yajnavalkya, what pervaded the whole cosmos and whatever is, was and shall be?”
Yajnavalkya replied, “The unmanifested ether (Akasha) It is above the Heaven and below the Earth. The Heaven and the Earth are part of it.”

“I bow to you, Yajnavalkya. I am satisfied with your answer. Now I have another question.” Said Gargi.
“O Gargi, please ask.” said Yajnavalkya.
Gargi continued, “What pervades the unmanifested ether?”

This question was a real test of Yajnavalkya’s wisdom.

He replied: “The unmanifested eather is pervaded by the immutable Brahman. It is neither gross nor minute, neither short or long, neither shadow nor darkness, neither air nor ether. The different worlds, the sun and the moon, do not transgress its mighty rule. Whoever departs from this world without knowing this immutable being has to continue to experience an endless series of births and deaths. This Brahman is never an object of thought or intellect, being thought or intelligence itself! It is the ultimate knower who knows through all intellects. Brahman, which is the self within all and is beyond all relative attributes like hunger, various desires etc. is the ultimate goal, the highest truth. By this Brahman is the unmanifested either pervaded.”

Then Gargi said: “Respected Brahmins, listen to my words. I have already said that if Yajnavalkya answers my questions, none of you can beat him. You can never hope to defeat him. In comprehending Brahman, there is none other here who matches his intelligence.” Saying this Gargi sat down and listened humbly to rest of the proceedings.

The quality of questions asked by Gargi prove the level of knowledge she had. Though she had such knowledge, she was so humble, that she never had the misplaced ego to prove herself right.

Gargi is considered as one of the most respected woman philosopher of the Vedic period for her intelligence and politeness. Her questions provided new dimensions to the enquiry of the Brahman, Supreme Being.

Salutations to the power of knowledge of the ladies of the Vedic India.

Gargi was one of the brightest star amongst them!

Shubham Bhavatu!

Yogi Arwind

This text is copyrighted. © Yogi Arwind Foundation

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

At the doors of death…

(Kathopanishad simplified!)

Nachikta was unhappy with his father. His honesty could not tolerate the fact that his father Uddalaka (a great sage) has donated the useless cows to the Brahmins who performed a ‘Great Yagya’ for him. Uddalaka, one of the most respected sages of the time performed the Vishwajit Yagya and donated all his wealth to the Brahmins. Some of the cows he donated were of no use to the Brahmins as they were aged, incapable of progeny and could not produce milk. Nachiketa did not like this act of his father.

Wishing for best of his father, he asked, “Father, I am also part of your wealth. To whom you are donating me?” Uddalaka did not respond. Nachiketa asked second time but did not get any answer from his father. When he asked third time, Uddalaka angrily answered to Nachiketa, “I am giving you to the God of Death, Yama.”

His father’s answer did not disturb Nachiketa. He said to his father, “This body is going to tear away one day. But good actions (karma) are going to last forever. Hence, to keep your word, please grant me the permission to go to the house of Yama, the god of death.”

Repentant father granted Nachiketa the permission to go to Yama.

Yama was surprised to see such handsome boy sitting at his doorsteps. He very well knew the power of truthful souls and effects of any disgrace to them. He went to welcome Nachiketa with the gold bowl in his hand with warm water. He washed his feet and said, “You have been waiting at my doorsteps for last three nights. I am ashamed that you had to fast for three days and I could not take good care of my guest. I am guilty of you as I failed in my responsibility to honor my guest. So, please ask three boons as a gift from me for each night you waited.”

Nachiketa said, “O’ lord of death, my father should lose his anger at me and should develop compassion for me in his heart. When I go back from you, he should welcome me with the love and respect.”

Yamaraj granted the boon.

Secondly, Nachiketa said, “O’ god of death, Yama, you very well know that the god of fire (Agni) is the medium of reaching the heaven. I want to know more about Agni, the fire god!”

Yama said, “Agni is no doubt the medium to attain the heaven. The fire in its biggest form itself is the root cause of sustenance of this universe. You can say that it resides in the cave of knowledge of learned people”

Yamaraj described about how the yagya should be performed. What types of bricks to be used to construct the fire pit, what other items should be used to make the place of fire worship, the yagya. What type of fire should be selected to perform the yagya and so on…

The Yamraj said, “Nachiketa, I am so pleased with you that the fire for yagya will be named after you. Also please wear this mala of special beads which I want to gift you”.

Nachiketa was pleased.

Yamaraj then asked Nachiketa to ask the third boon.

Nachiketa said, “O’ Yama, you are god of death. Atman, ‘The soul’ which resides in the body of a human being to keep it alive cannot be experienced through senses. Hence I would like to know more about the ‘Nature of Atman’.

Yamaraj was surprised with this question. He firstly tried to deviate nachiketa from this query and said I have power to offer you many other beautiful things. He said, “I can offer you beautiful women with whom you can spend your life. I can grant you long life. I can grant you all resources of pleasure”

Nachiketa was unmoved with these offers. He said, “I would like to know about the Atman, The nature of the Soul.”

Yamaraj praised Nachiketa. He said, “I appreciate your determination and sense of detachment. I appreciate your ascetic and non-possessive mindset. A person who is so detached from the worldly attractions only is eligible and capable of understanding true nature of the Atman, The Soul. Hence I answer you.”

He further said, “Atman is the life force. It has no birth or death. It is not born of anything nor does any other thing originate from it.”

“Brahman, the supreme being, the wider expression of the Atman, is eternal. It is always there. It remains there even after leaving the body it wears. It is in all living things. But it is still. It is in every living and non living thing. The whole universal cycle is directed, guided and controlled by it. All the five elements manifest as per its wish.”

Yamaraj says further, “Human beings, who know this nature of Brahman before leaving the body, liberate the soul form the cycle of rebirth. They do away the sufferings and enjoy the bliss of ultimate knowledge.”

“This ultimate knowledge, The Truth is attained by only those, who have controlled their desires, whose heart is pure and mind is unwavering. More importantly, the Truth is experienced by those who have strongest urge to ‘Know.”

Nachiketa was blessed with such knowledge. He thanked Yama and returned to his father’s house.

He was welcomed with honor by his father and the most learned sages with great respect.

Shubham Bhavatu!

Yogi Arwind

This text is copyrighted. © Yogi Arwind Foundation

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

ॐ is a lock and the key too...Gorakh Nath

सबदही ताला सबदही कुंची सबदही सबद भया उजियाला
कांटा सेती कांटा षुटे कुंची सेती ताला
सिद्ध मिले तो साधिक निपजे, जब घटी होय उजाला

(is a word. is a lock. is the key. This word is divine light. Like the thorn pierced in one's toe is removed using a thorn itself, or as a the lock is opened using a key, the lock of can be opened by the key of only. To know how to open such lock, the seeker has to be blessed with the realized master (Guru). Once the lock is opened, then there is no end to the divine light!)

As a researcher of Upanishads, the theory of Brahman (The Absolute) and various approaches to realize it, have always fascinated me. There is no better author philosopher than Gorakh Nath, who simplifies Upanishadic essence for commoners in 'easy to understand' language.

In the Gyan Chalisa of Gorakh Nath, the very first verse delves with the word form of and beyond as the representation of The Absolute.

, the Pranav Mantra, is everything. It is the ultimate being which is expressed through the word. ‘Pranav’ in Sanskrit means to express that loudly which is already there. Amplify something which already exists in the seed form.

In one's spiritual journey, the goal is to reach and experience the ultimate Truth, The Absolute. The goal is to reach the Supreme Being, experience the union with the Supreme Being by shading away the duality. This ultimate being which is the eternal sound of , for easier understanding is expressed with the word 'AUM'. Hence this is everything!

Gorakh Nath says, this word itself is the lock and it the key too. When the word is not interpreted well, or the meaning behind it not understood and experienced fully, then it is a mere 'set of letters'. This 'ignorance' to treat as a set of letters and not understanding it as the representation of the eternal sound 'locks' the treasure of knowledge. So the ignorance about is like lock.

When the seeker understands the meaning of , through sadhana, then 'the whole new world' of realization opens for him / her. Practicing of Pranav Mantra during various sadhana options like Japa, Pranayam, Dhyan, etc takes the sadhak on the path of realization. Such persistent, focused sadhana ultimately opens the lock of ignorance and the seeker experiences the Ultimate Truth!

This is the moment of experiencing divine light. In such state, there is no illusion, no misconceptions, no attachments, no suffering, no pain. All that one experiences after such stage of realization is the ultimate brightness of the truth.

Gorakh Nath uses the symbolism of thorn and lock &key. Like thorn is used to remove thorn, or key is used to open the lock, the knowledge of opens the lock of ignorance and takes one to the truth.

So ॐ, which is ever existing naad, is simply loudly expressed with the sound that unifies with the cosmic sound, the eternal sound. Aum is the reflection of absolute reality. Upanishads say Ometi Brahman! Which means Aum itself is the Brahman, The Supreme Being!

The syllable is mentioned in all the Upanishads, set forth as the object of profound meditation, the highest spiritual efficacy being attributed not only to the whole word but also to the three sounds a (a-kāra), u (u-kāra), m (ma-kāra), of which it consists. A-kara means form or shape like earth, trees, or any other object. U-kāra means formless or shapeless like water, air or fire. Ma-kāra means neither shape nor shapeless (but still exists) like the dark energy content of the Universe. When we combine all three syllables we get AUM which is a combination of A-kāra, U-kāra, and Ma-kāra.

Gorakh Nath says, to open such lock of , the sadhak has to be blessed with the right Guru, who really is the Siddha - the realized master. Such master, then, instead of involving the sadhak in the meaningless rituals, opens the treasure of knowledge by appropriately and honestly guiding at various stages of sadhana. The ultimate result of such realized Guru's blessings is the experience of bright light of Truth!

Shubham Bhavatu!

Yogi Arwind

This text is copyrighted. ©Yogi Arwind Foundation

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

It is beyond Zero. Zero doesn’t fit into it! Gorakh Nath

Gorakh Nath has caught my imagination more than any other saint, philosopher & guide. His philosophy and the language is so captivating for obvious reasons like upfront style of communication, use of very apt phrases, clarity of the concepts, innovative methodology and no-nonsense approach to the spiritual journey.

Kabir, Raidas, Haridas, Dadu, Namdev etc are the saints of the same tradition of which Gorakh Nath is the initiator and torch bearer. Gorakh tradition of spiritual experience is deep rooted in the masses, language and techniques of this tradition are powerful yet simple. Gorakh Nath’s Sabadi, Pad, Gyan Tilak, Gyan Chautisa, Abhaymatra Jog, Atmabodh etc are the available literature.

The very first verse of his Sabadi is so powerful that it has all Upanishadic essence and glory.

Basati Na Shunyam, Shunyam Na Basati Agam Agochar Aisa I

Gagan Sishar mahi Balak Boley Taka Nav Dharahuge Kaisa II

This verse talks straight about the nature of the Param Tatva (‘Supreme Being’). Param Tatva being the ultimate creator, preserver and destroyer is the force that is not possible to be experienced with our limits of senses.

Basati na Shunyam Shunyam Na Basati

Gorakh says, the nature of the supreme being is such that you can not accommodate the supreme being in the ultimate void (Basati Na Shunyam) in which the universe is experiencing its existence. Shunya is zero. Zero means nothing left after it. Hence Zero means everything. And Zero in terms of universal reality is the ultimate void in which the universal existential dance is taking place. Gorakh says that the Supreme being who created this universe does not fit into this ultimate void (Shunya). It is even bigger and beyond it. And the big void does not fit into it too. Hence the supreme being is so vast that there is no measure to fathom its vastness.

Many Upanishads speak of such existential reality with the help of numerous examples. Ishavasya Upanishad, Prashopanishad talk of nature of the Supreme Being beyond the abilities of human senses to understand it.

Agam Agochar Aisa

Further says Gorakh, that the origin of the Supreme Being is not known. It is ‘Agam’. i.e. one doesn’t know from where and when it is originated. It means the Supreme Being is always there. There is no origin / beginning and end to it.

The Supreme Being is ‘Agochar’. It means it can not be understood fully with our parts of the body and senses. Hence our senses are so limited that the nature of the Supreme Being is simply beyond their capacity to ‘sense’ it.

Gagan Sishar mahi Balak Boley

Gorakh Nath uses a very unique phrase to explain further the nature of the Supreme Being. He says that it is like a small child speaking with his voice in the vastness of the sky. Symbolism associated with the child reflects many times in the spiritual literature. A child is ‘unconditioned’ existence. Child is life force with no conditioning of ‘Maya’ or illusion. Hence Gorakh says that the Supreme Being is the true existence like a child whose voice is spread all over the universe. The Supreme Being is ultimate Truth.

Taka Nav Dharahuge Kaisa

And lastly, in the first verse of the Sabadi, Gorakh Nath says that such Supreme Being, which is so vast, so huge that no timeline can bound it, so unlimeited in its expression that no senses can sense it, such an ultimate truth that you just can not name it. The Supreme Being is beyond Nam – Roop.

Shubham Bhavatu!

Yogi Arwind

This text is copyrighted. ©Yogi Arwind Foundation