Spirituality Insight

BHAGAVATA PURANA

Bhagavata Purana lays emphasis on dharma, bhakti and Advaita

WORDS: MADHURI. Y

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Bhagavata Purana also known as Srimad Bhagavatam is a classic Vedic philosophical treatise and includes stories on Lord Krishna. Counted among the 18 Mahapuranas, the date of its composition is around 1800 BC to 5000 BC.
Also called Fifth Veda, it comprises 12 books with 332 chapters; and 16,000 to 18,000 verses. The most popular is the 10th book dealing with Lord Krishna’s life.
Bhagavata Purana stresses on bhakti to God and speaks about Advaita or non-duality of the soul; and jiva or individual soul being part of Brahman (the impersonal one).
The sage poet Veda Vyasa wrote Bhagavata Purana. Before writing Bhagavata, Vyasa codified the Vedas dividing it into 4 parts (in honorific sense Veda Vyasa means “the one who classified the Vedas”); and of course, giving Mahabharata as gift to mankind.
THE MESSAGE
Book One speaks about the dialogue between sages Vyasa and Narada. The two discuss Bhagavad Gita and Upanishads. Narada says, ‘I meditated on “Self in Self through Self and understood what bhakti is.”’
After discussion with Narada, Vyasa wrote Bhagavata Purana which he taught to his son Shuka who as a recluse once saw King Parikshit dying on the banks of Ganges. Parikshit asks Shuka what he should do with death approaching. Shuka tells the King to control the mind and contemplate on AUM

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(the vibration that connects the entire universe) so as to merge with supreme universal consciousness. Book Seven is dedicated to Hiranyakasipu and his son Prahlada. It narrates the demon’s death at the hands of Narasimha, incarnation of Vishnu. Prahlada is considered top-notch devotee of Vishnu and personifies bhakti. It also deals with Advaita or non-dualism of the Brahman, the “immutable Self.”
Bhagavatam describes how Yadavas indulged in infighting leading to destruction of Yadava dynasty. The end comes from a brutal internecine war, described as a drunken fight.

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STORIES OF LORD KRISHNA
Book 10, the longest book of the Bhagavatam, is all about Lord Krishna and his growing up with Yashoda, stealing butter, showing the entire universe within himself, killing the demon Putana, lifting the Goverdhan hill to protect his people, and Raas Leela (dance of divine love) with Gopis.
TRUE LOVE
Gopis were the greatest devotees of Krishna and their transcendental love for the Lord was of highest order. It was divine raas leela of the Lord with the cowherd-maidens of Vrindavan. Krishna, the embodiment of bliss, was their spiritual master who taught them the esoteric science of yoga for being in Communion with God.

Krishna too leaves for Vaikuntha following the carnage.
Bhagavatam emphasises detachment and virtuousness. It gives out the essence of Dharma (universal principle of law, order, harmony, and truth); Advaita (Brahman, the supreme soul); and bhakti (highest expression of spiritual love) as means to attain salvation.

BHAJA GOVINDAM

Bhaja Govindam propounds bhakti yoga as a means to salvation

WORDS: MADHURI. Y

Bhaja Govindam, Adi Shankaracharya’s composition, is also known as Moha Mudgara, meaning, a hammer to shatter illusion. In it, Shankaracharya explains Bhakti Yoga as the means to liberation from the cycle of birth and death. He says that we must renounce our pride and ego and surrender to God.
Shankaracharya was born in Kerala during the 8th century, and had written commentaries on the Brahma Sutras, the Upanishads and the Gita. He had preached Advaita Vedanta, that the soul and the supreme soul are one. Shankaracharya gave importance to Anubhava, which is experiencing for oneself that the self is the same as Brahman, the Supreme Soul.
Of the Bhaja Govindam’s 31 verses, Shankaracharya had composed 12 in addition to the first one, which is the refrain. Hence, these verses are called Dvaadasamanjarika Stotra. His 14 disciples are said to have added a verse each, and these are called Chaturdasa Manjarika Stotra. To these, Shankaracharya added another five, making it a 31-verse composition in addition to the refrain.
Bhaja Govindam tells people to ask themselves the questions, ‘Who am I?’, ‘Why am I here in this life?’, ‘What is the Truth?’, with each verse standing on its own and helping in deep contemplation.

Bhaja Govindam, Bhaja Govindam,
Govindam Bhaja Moodha Mate
Samprapthe sannihite kale
Nahi nahi rakshathi dookran karane.

Worship Govinda, Worship Govinda,
Worship Govinda, you fool!
At the time of your death
Rules of grammar will not save you.

Punarapi jananam punarapi maranam,
Punarapi Janani jatare sayanam
Iha samsaare khalu dusthare
Krupayaa pare pahi murare.

Again and again one is born, again and again one dies
Again and again one sleeps in the mother’s womb
Help me cross this limitless sea of life
Which is uncrossable.

Kasthwam ko aham kutha ayatha
Kaa me Janani ko me thatha.
Ithi paribhavaaya sarvamasaaram
Viswam tyakthwa Swapna vichaaram

Who am I? Where did I come from?
Who is my mother? Who is my father?
Think of these, realise that this world,
Is a meaningless mirage,
And leave this dream-like world.

Kaamam krodham lobham moham
Tyakthwaathmanam bhavaya koham
Atma jnana viheena mooda
Sthepachyanthe naraka nigooda

Leave out your passion,
Leave out your anger,
Leave out your love for money,
Leave out your yearning in life,
Think and think, who you are?
Those who find it not, are but fools,
And are always happy in hell.

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THE ORIGIN
When Shankaracharya was walking through Kashi, he came across an aged scholar repeating the rules of grammar. Shankara is believed to have composed the Bhaja Govindam when explaining to the scholar that he must turn his mind to God rather than waste time on grammar.
TRUE GURU
At Kashi, Shankaracharya after taking bath in Ganga was proceeding towards the temple of Lord Viswanath with his disciples when a Chandala (outcaste) came along with his dogs and brushed one of the disciples who shouted “get away, get away – don’t touch us.”
Chandala countered “when the same Supreme Spirit pervades everywhere how could one contaminate the other”? Shankaracharya was struck speechless and acknowledged this truth. Then the outcaste revealed himself as Lord Shiva. This experience led the seer to compose his immortal poem ‘Manisha Panchakam’ which says even a low caste can enlighten the greatest of all teachers and is the essence of Advaita. In nutshell Advaita is :
Brahma sathyam jagan mithya
Jivo Brahmaiva na parah
(Brahman – the Absolute – is alone real and not this world; jiva – individual ‘ego’ or consciousness – in reality is Brahman itself – being part of Him).

VARAHOPANISHAD

Varaha shows how one can merge with the supreme self or Paramatma

WORDS: MADHURI. Y

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Varahopanishad is the discussion between the Varaha avatar of Lord Vishnu with Ribhu maharshi. It is the 98th of the 108 Upanishads.
After undertaking penance for 12 deva years, sage Ribhu visits Varaha who wishes to grant a boon. He asks Varaha to explain the concept of Brahman, the ultimate reality, the knowledge of which brings liberation.
Its five chapters in 247 verses discuss the tattvas, supreme knowledge, non-dualism, stages of learning, and yoga.

TATTVA
Tattvas are principles which, Varaha states, include the sense organs, organs of action, vital airs, principles of perception and faculties of knowledge.

He further explains the elements, the gross, subtle and causal bodies, states of consciousness, stages of change, infirmities, the body’s sheaths, foes, jiva aspects, gunas, types of karmas, the types of actions, and of thought and directions, making up 96 tattvas. The supreme is beyond these tattvas and worshipping him removes ignorance and takes a person to salvation whatever outer bodily form he maintains.

BRAHMAVIDYA
In Chapter 2, Varaha explains brahmavidya.

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One attains spiritual liberation through sincere desire for it and by building shama, the six virtuous qualities, which are tranquillity, self-restraint, not craving reward, endurance, faith and meditation.
He further explains that those who know their self, have no thought of caste or their stage of life. Discussing sankalpa, he says that a person becomes what he thinks, and it is thought that gives the world its appearance. The cycle of birth is a dream and a jivanmukta is one who is liberated from samsara through self-knowledge.
Meditating at the right time expands one’s wisdom to that of the liberated soul, bringing the soul close to the supreme soul. AUM is the means to meditate upon the nature of the self and the supreme self.

NON-DUALISM
In Chapter 3, Varaha explains that in the eyes of God, everyone is equal and is the absolute

AVADHUTA GITA

Through the Avadhuta Gita, Dattatreya explained the non-duality of existence and that liberated souls merge into the formless one.

WORDS: MADHURI. Y

Through the Avadhuta Gita, Dattatreya explained the non-duality of existence and that liberated souls merge into the formless one.
Avadhuta Gita with its teachings of Dattatreya means ‘song of the liberated soul’ and is based on Advaita Vedanta, that is, non-duality.
Also known as Avadhuta Grantha, Dattatreya Gita, Datta Gita Yoga Shastra or Vedanta Sara, it is about the nature of a spiritually liberated person. Parts of the Avadhuta Gita are found in the Bhagavata Purana and other Hindu texts. The written text dates to the 9th or 10th century and comprises 289 shlokas in eight chapters of which it is believed that the last chapter is an addition by someone else.

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The Avadhuta Gita speaks of the liberated soul who is not interested in dogmas, habits, rituals or surface morality.

THE ESSENCE
The essence and the whole of Vedanta is this Knowledge, this supreme Knowledge: That I am by nature the formless, all-pervasive Self.
Verse 1.5

The mind indeed is of the form of space. The mind indeed is omni-faced. The mind is the past. The mind is all. But in reality, there is no mind.
Verse 1.9

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Know the Self always to be everywhere, one and unintercepted. I am the meditator and the highest object of meditation. Why do you divide the Indivisible?
Verse 1.12

That which has form is visible to the eye, while formless is perceived mentally. That (the Self), being beyond existence and non-existence, is called intermediate (neither material nor mental, but beyond both).
Verse 2.18

The external existence is the universe, the inner existence is called prakriti (cosmic mind). One should try to know that which is more interior than the inner existence.
Verse 2.19

Illusory knowledge relates to what is outside, correct knowledge to what is inside. Try to know that which is more interior than the inside, that which is like water within the kernel of the coconut.
Verse 2.20

It has been said that the destiny of those devoted to action is the same as their thought at the end, but it has not been said that the destiny of those established in yoga is the same as their thought at the end.
Verse 2.26

There is never any you and I. The discrimination of family and race is false. I am indeed the Absolute and the Supreme Truth. In that case how can I make a salutation?
Verse 6.22

The enlightened one is a yogi devoid of yoga and the absence of yoga. He is an enjoyer, devoid of enjoyment and the absence of enjoyment. Thus, he wanders leisurely, filled with the spontaneous joy of his own mind.
Verse 7.9

There is neither existence nor non-existence, all is Atman. Shake off all ideas of relativity; shake off all superstitions; let caste and birth and Devas and all else vanish.

Why talk of being and becoming? Give up talking of dualism and Advaitism! When were you two, that you talk of two or one? The universe is this Holy One and He alone.

Talk not of Yoga to make you pure; you are pure by your very nature. None can teach you.

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(Vivekananda’s translation)

Teachings of The Dalai Lama

The Dalai Lama, the Tibetan spiritual leader, spreads the message of kindness, tolerance and compassion.

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Dalai Lama is the Tibetan spiritual leader and represents Buddhist values and traditions. He is considered incarnation of Avalokitesvara or the lord who looks upon the world with compassion. He is the Bodhisattva of Compassion. Dalai means ocean or big in Mongol and lama means master or guru in Tibetan.
Tenzin Gyatso is the 14th and current Dalai Lama is a revered figure across the world and is recipient of Nobel Peace Prize.
Altan Khan of the Ming dynasty created the title of the Dalai Lama in 1578 and the fifth Dalai Lama was granted seal of authority over Buddhism by the Shunzhi Emperor of China.

THE DALAI LAMA’S TEACHINGS

Happiness and Compassion
If you want others to be happy practice compassion. If you want to be happy practice compassion.
– Meditation for Living In Balance: Daily Solutions for People Who Do Too Much by Anne Wilson Schaef

Love, Compassion, Forgiveness
All major religions basically carry the same message. Love, compassion and forgiveness … to make it part of our daily life.
– Especially for Christians: Powerful Thought-provoking Words from the Past by Mark Alton Rose

Tolerance
It is the enemy who can truly teach us to practice the virtues of compassion and tolerance.
– Ocean of Wisdom: Guidelines for Living

The Sameness of Human Beings
Today we face many problems. Some are created essentially by us based on divisions due to ideology, religion, race, economic status, or other factors. Therefore, the time has come for us to think on a deeper level, on the human level, and from that level we should appreciate and respect the sameness of others as human beings.
– The Dalai Lama: A Policy of Kindness

A Biased Mind Cannot Grasp Reality
“A society, which has many religions, should also have many prophets and sources of refuge.

In such a society, it is very important to have harmony and respect amongst the different religions and their practitioners.
We must distinguish between belief and respect. Belief refers to total faith, which you must have in your own religion. At the same time, you should have respect for all other religions.”
– Excerpt from His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s address to the inter-faith seminar organised by the International Association for Religious Freedom, Ladakh Group, in Leh.

Establishing Harmony Within Religious Diversity

… Here there are two possibilities of what can happen. The first one is that because of close contact between different traditions, sometimes there’s a little sense of insecurity about our own tradition. The other tradition comes into more contact with us, so we feel a little bit uncomfortable. That’s a negative possibility.
The second possibility is that because of this reality of more communication, the opportunities to develop genuine harmony between traditions have grown. This is a more positive possibility and so now we must make effort to establish true harmony. … through close contact, we can learn new things from each other; we can enrich our own traditions.

– www.dalailama.com

Yoga Vasistha

Yoga Vasistha is a spiritual instruction given to Rama by sage Vasistha. After settling down as King of Ayodhya Lord Rama is disgusted with the prospect of continuing his worldly duties. He approaches the sage seeking knowledge and the means to shed his mortal coil. The six books of the Yoga Vasishta chronicle the progressive states which Rama undergoes in his search for enlightenment and finally in shedding his mortal coil.

By Madhuri Y

YOGA Vasistha is believed to have been written by sage Valmiki. It is also known as Maha Ramayana, Arsha Ramayana, Vasistha Ramayana and Jnanavasistha. Translated into Persian in the 14th and 15th centuries, it is based on Advaita Vedanta, that is, there exists one reality and one God.
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BOOKS OF YOGA VASISTHA
The Yoga Vasistha comprises six books:
1. Vairagya Prakaranam is about Rama’s frustration with life and suffering, and states the need for dispassion.
2. Mumukshuvayahara Prakaranam describes the nature of people who seek liberation.
3. Utpatti Prakaranam speaks of the birth of all creation and the birth of spiritual inclination in Lord Rama.
4. Sthiti Prakaranam speaks of existence, the nature of the world and of Advaita or non-duality. It also speaks of free will and of the human creative power.
5. Upashama Prakaranam speaks of meditation, patience, the feeling of oneness and its power to liberate a person.
6. Nirvana Prakaranam speaks of freedom and liberation and of an enlightened Rama.

How Kacha Attains Liberation

VASISTHA narrates the story of muni Kacha who is the son of Brihaspati. One day, Kacha approaches his father and seeks the path of enlightenment and the means to separate prana from mundane cares.
Brihaspati tells him that the ocean of births can be crossed only by renouncing everything. Kacha retires to the forest to meditate. At the end of eight years, when Brihaspati visits him, Kacha asks him why despite renouncing everything, his mental pain has not subsided.
Advising him that he should give up everything, Brihaspati departs. Kacha now gives up even the bark of trees worn as clothes and all other essentials. After some years, he visits his father, prostrates and asks why he is unable to get peace of mind even though he has renounced everything.
Brihaspati responds that mastery over mind leads to renunciation. It is only then that Kacha can free himself of all pain.
Kacha understands that so far, he has been inquiring into what the mind is and had not been able to come to a conclusion. He finally understands that any effort to separate the body from the mind is useless because they themselves are different from one another. Even this understanding does not resolve his doubt regarding the mind. Once again, he seeks Brihaspati’s advice.
The guru tells him that wise people understand that the mind is nothing but ahankara, or the ‘I’. ‘I’ creates impurities in soul.
Kacha recognises that it is difficult to avoid the idea of ‘I’ and asks his father how it can be broken.
Brihaspati replies that the only principle is of the non-dual, the endless, the supreme jnana. He advises Kacha to meditate upon this steadiness and that he can free himself of all pain and attain true calmness. Ahankara is unreal and hence, when such effort is made, it perishes. It cannot grow in an atmosphere where one meditates upon the eternal. Kacha can then be free from the differentiations of I and He. He blesses Kacha with the ability to remain in supreme reality.
Kacha, after abandoning the idea of ‘I’ is able to meditate upon the supreme reality. He turns into a jivanmukta or one without vikalpas with nothing that could trouble his mind.
Vasistha has led Rama to a desireless state and finally to emancipation.