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Sunday, 14 October 2012

The Fall And Rise of A Merchant

In the city of Vardhaman, there lived a wealthy merchant named Dantila. He held a great reception for his wedding attended by the king, the queen, their ministers and all the rich and influential persons in the city. Present at the reception was Gorambha, a lowly sweeper in the royal household. When Dantila saw him occupying a seat reserved for the nobles of the king, he ordered his servants to throw him out of his house. 

Thus insulted, Gorambha thought to himself, “I am a poor man and so cannot give a fitting reply to such a wealthy person as Dantila. I must some how see that the king stops his favours to him.” Then he hit upon a plan to take revenge on Dantila. 

One early morning when the king was still in sleep, Gorambha pretending to sweep the king's bedroom began loudly murmuring, “Oh, how arrogant is Dantila! He has the cheek to lock the queen in his embrace.” Hearing this, the king demanded to know whether what Gorambh was murmuring is true. Did Dantila embrace the queen? 

“Oh, your majesty, I don't remember nor do I know what I was saying because I was drowsy having spent the entire night in gambling,” the sweeper told the king. 

Not satisfied with his reply the king thought that it was possible that the sweeper had seen Dantila, who had equal access to the royal household as Gorambha, embracing the queen. He remembered wise men saying that men were likely to talk in their sleep about what they did, saw and desired in the day. Women were chaste because men were not within reach or they were afraid of prying servants. Convinced that Dantila had indeed embraced the queen, the king barred Dantila from entering the royal household. 

The merchant began grieving his fate though he had not done any harm to the king or his relatives even in his dreams. One day as Dantila was trying to enter the king's palace he was barred by the king's men. Seeing this Gorambha told them, “You fools, you are barring the great Dantila who has won the king's favours. He is powerful. If you stop him, you will meet with the same fate as I did at the hands of Dantila one day.” 

The merchant thought that it would do him good to make Gorambha happy and win his confidence. One evening he invited the sweeper for tea and presented him with expensive clothes and told him, “Friend, I had never meant to insult you. You had occupied a seat I had set apart for the learned. Kindly pardon me.”

Pleased, the sweeper promised to win the king's favour for Dantila again. The next day, Gorambha repeated the same drama of pretending to talk irrelevantly, raving that the king was eating cucumber in the rest room. “What nonsense are you talking? Did you ever see me doing such things?” the king demanded to know. “No, your majesty. I do not know nor do I remember what I was saying because I was drowsy having spent the entire night in gambling,” the sweeper said. 

The king then realized that if what the sweeper had said about him was not true what he had said about Dantila also could not be true. A person like Dantila could not have done what Gorambha had told him. The king also found that without Dantila the affairs of the state had suffered and civic administration had come to a standstill. The king immediately summoned the merchant to his palace and restored to him all the authority he had enjoyed before he fell out of king's favour. 

Damanaka resumed, “That is why we must know that pride goes before fall.” Sanjeevaka agreed. Taking him to the lion king, Damanaka introduced Sanjeevaka to Pingalaka. After exchanging pleasantries, the king asked him to relate his past and the purpose of staying in that jungle. On the bullock relating his story, the king said, “Friend, don't be afraid. I assure you that I will protect you from wild animals here because even stronger animals feel insecure here.”

Since then, the king asked Karataka and Damanaka to look after the affairs of the state and began happily spending his time in the company of Sanjeevaka. But the jackals were worried that after Sanjeevaka had become a good friend of the king, the king gave up his royal sports and pastime and became a saint. 

The jackal twins thought, “the king has stopped taking us into confidence after Sanjeevaka became his best friend. He is also indifferent to his kingly duties. What shall we do now?” 

Karataka said, “The king may not heed our advice. But it is our duty to advise him on it if it is good for him. Elders have always held that even if the king is not willing to heed good advice, it is the duty of his ministers to offer him advice. “You are right,” said Damanaka. “The mistake is mine. What happened to the sage and the jackal should not happen to us.” 

Karataka then pleaded with him to tell the story of the sage and the jackal. Damanaka began telling him.

Saturday, 13 October 2012

The Jackal And The Drum

Panchatantra- A hungry jackal set out in search of food and ended up at an abandoned battlefield whence he heard loud and strange sounds. Scared, he thought, “I must disappear from here before the man who is making these sounds gets me.” After a while he told himself, “I must not run away like that. Let me find out what really the sounds are and who is making them because whether it is fear or happiness one must know its cause. Such a person will never regret his actions. So, let me first look for the source of these noises.”

Warily, the jackal marched in the direction of the sounds and found a drum there. It was this drum, which was sending the sounds whenever the branches of the tree above brushed against it. Relieved, the jackal began playing the drum and thought that there could be food inside it. The jackal entered the drum by piercing its side. He was disappointed to find no food in it. Yet he consoled himself saying that he rid himself of the fear of sound. 

“Therefore”, Damanaka told king Pingalaka, “your majesty should not be afraid of sounds. I seek your permission to go and see what the sounds are.” 

 “Okay,” said the king. Taking leave of the king, Damanaka proceeded in the direction of the sound.
The king now began worrying himself about Damanaka's intentions. “He may have a grudge against me for dismissing him once. Such persons seek revenge. I should not have taken him into confidence. Let me keep an eye on him. Wise men have always maintained that it is difficult to kill even a weak man who does not easily trust others but easy to kill a strong man who readily trusts others,” the king thought. 

As the king kept an eye on him, Damanaka moved slowly towards Sanjeevaka, the bullock, and found that he was after all an animal and thought, “This is a good omen. This will help me to get back into the good books of the king. Kings never follow the advice of their ministers unless they are in peril or grief. Just as a healthy man never thinks of a doctor, a strong and secure king also never remembers the need for a minister.” 

Assured that what he saw was only a bullock, Damanaka returned to the king and told him what he saw. 

“Is it true?” the king asked. 

“The king is God. The man who lies to a king perishes. He alone has the power to grant favours.” 

“I believe you. Great men do not harm weaker people. They take on only their equals. That is what is unique about brave people.” 

“What your majesty says is true. Sanjeevaka is great. If your lordship permits me, I will persuade him to be one of your servants.” 

“All right, I am taking you back as a minister,” said the king, pleased. 

Damanaka at once hurried back to Sanjeevaka and told him to stop bellowing and come and meet his king. But the bullock wanted who this Pingalaka was. “What? You do not know our lord? Wait, you will know shortly the cost of this ignorance. There he is, surrounded by his retinue under the banyan tree.” Sanjeevaka thought his days were numbered and pleaded with Damanaka, “Sir, you seem to be a man of great wisdom and wit. You alone can save me. I can come only if you can assure me that no harm will come to me.” Damanaka told the bullock to wait for the right time to meet the king. 

  Returning to the king, Damanaka told him “My lord, he is not an ordinary being. He is the vehicle of Lord Shiva. He told me that Lord Shiva had permitted him to feed on the tender grass in the neighbourhood of Jamuna. But I told him that the forest belonged to our lion king who is the vehicle of goddess Chandika. You are our guest. You can see our king and seek a separate space for you to graze. He agreed to this plan provided he has an assurance from your majesty.” 

“Yes, certainly. But I will need assurance from him in return. Bring him here,” the king told Damanaka. Going back to the bullock Damanaka advised him, “You have the assurance of the king. But this new position should not go to your head. We have to work together. That is how we can prosper. Otherwise, he who does not respect everyone, however high or low, will forfeit the favour of kings like Dantila.” 

“What about Dantila?” asked Sanjeevaka.

The Monkey And The Wedge

A merchant once started building a temple in the middle of his garden. Many masons and carpenters were working for the merchant. They took time off every day to go to the town for their lunch. One day, when the workers left for lunch a batch of monkeys landed at the temple site and began playing with whatever caught their fancy. One of the monkeys saw a partly sawed log of wood and a wedge fixed in it so that it does not close up. 

Curious to know what it is, the monkey began furiously tugging at the wedge. At last the wedge came off, not before trapping the legs of the monkey into the rift of the log. Very soon, not able to get his legs out of the closed wood, the monkey died. 

“Therefore,” Karataka told Damanaka, “it is not wise to poke our nose into affairs that are not our concern. We have a food store. Why should we bother ourselves about this lion?” 

Damanaka retorted, “Food is not the centre of our life. The elders have said that wise men seek the help of the king to help friends and harm foes. There are hundred ways of collecting food. What matters is a life full of learning, courage and wealth. If living somehow is the goal, even the crow lives long eating leftovers.” 

“True, but we are not ministers any more. The elders have always said that the stupid person who offers uncalled for advice to the king invites not only insult but also deceit,” said Karataka. 

“No,” Damanaka said, “anyone who serves the king with devotion is bound to earn his favour in the long run. The one who does not remains where he is. Those who understand why the king is angry or generous will one-day rise in office. It is necessary to be in the good books of the king.' 

“Okay, what do you want to do now?” asked Karataka. 

“You know the king is scared now. We will ask him what frightens him and using the six ways of diplomacy get close to him.” 

“How do you know the king is scared?”

“Changes in posture, signs, pace, actions, conversation, looks and expression indicate the working of the mind. I will approach the fear-struck king today and with my intelligence, I will dispel his fear and once again become his minister,” said Damanaka. 

“How can you do it when you do not know principles of service?” asked Karataka. 

Damanaka told him all he knew and learnt about what makes a good and loyal servant in the service of the king. 

“In that case, I wish you all good luck,” said Karataka. 

Taking leave of Karataka, Damanaka then called on the king. Recognizing that he was the son of his old minister, King Pingalaka told his sentry to bring him into his presence. Damanaka came down on his knees to pay respects to the king. 

“We haven't seen you for a long time,” the king said. 

“I don't know of what use I can be to you, my lord. Yet, according to the learned, there are occasions when every person however high or low will be of use to the king. For generations we have served the king with devotion. Yet I am out of your majesty's favour.”

“All right, competent or incompetent you are the son of our old minister. Go ahead and tell me whatever you have in your mind,” the king ordered Damanaka. 

“May I ask you humbly, my lord, what made you come back from the lake without drinking water,” asked Damanaka reluctantly. 

“O' Damanaka, haven't you heard the great and frightening sounds in the distance? I want to leave this forest. The strange animal that could make such sounds ought to be as powerful as the sounds he makes.” 

“Your majesty, if it is only sound that is your problem, I wish to submit that sounds are misleading. I can tell you the story of the jackal, how it overcame the fear of sound.” 

Let us hear it, said the king.

The Loss of Friends (Panchatantra, Part I)

Once upon a time, Amarasakti ruled the city-state of Mahilaropyam in the south of India. He had three witless sons who became a matter of endless worry for him. Realizing that his sons had no interest in learning, the king summoned his ministers and said: 

“You know I am not happy with my sons. According to men of learning an unborn son and a stillborn son are better than a son who is a dimwit. What good is a barren cow? A son who is stupid will bring dishonour to his father. How can I make them fit to be my successors? I turn to you for advice.”
One of the ministers suggested the name of Vishnu Sharman, a great scholar enjoying the respect of hundreds of his disciples. “He is the most competent person to tutor your children. Entrust them to his care and very soon you will see the change.” 

The king summoned Vishnu Sharman and pleaded with him “Oh, venerable scholar, take pity on me and please train my sons into great scholars and I will make you the lord of hundred villages.”
Vishnu Sharman said “Oh, king, listen to my pledge. Hundred villages do not tempt me to vend learning. Count six months from today. If I do not make your children great scholars, you can ask me to change my name.” 

The king immediately called his sons and handed them to the care of the learned man. Sharman took them to his monastery where he started teaching them the five strategies (Panchatantra). Keeping his word, he finished the task the king entrusted him in six months. Since then, Panchatantra became popular all over the world as children's guide in solving problems of life. 

Now begins the Loss of Friends (first of the five strategies) series. These are stories that figure in a dialogue between two jackals named Karataka and Damanaka. 

Long, long ago, a merchant named Vardhaman lived in a town in the south of India. As he was resting on his bed one day it struck him that money was the axis of the world and that the more he had of it the more he would be powerful. Even enemies seek the friendship of a rich man, he told himself. The old become young if they have riches and the young become old if they do not have wealth. Business is one of the six ways that help man amass wealth. This was his logic.

Mobilizing all his wares, Vardhaman set out on an auspicious day for Madhura in search of markets for his goods. He began his travel in a gaily-decorated cart drawn by two bullocks. On the way, tired of the long haul, one of the bullocks named Sanjeevaka collapsed in the middle of a jungle near river Jamuna. But the merchant continued his journey asking some of his servants to take care of the animal. But the servants abandoned the bullock soon after their master had left. Joining him later, they told him that the bullock was dead. 

In fact, Sanjeevaka was not dead. Feeding on the abundant fresh and tender grass in the forest, he regained strength and began to merrily explore the jungle, dancing and singing in joy. In the same forest lived Pingalaka, the lion. Sanjeevaka, content with his new life in the jungle would waltz and sing uproariously with joy. One day, Pingalaka and other animals were drinking water in the Jamuna when the lion heard the frightening bellow of the bullock. In panic, the lion withdrew into the forest and sat deeply lost in thought and surrounded by other animals. 

Sensing the predicament of their king, two jackals, Karataka and Damanaka, sons of two dismissed ministers, were clueless as to what had happened to their king. 

“What could have happened to the lord of the forest,” asked Damanaka. 

“Why should we poke our nose into affairs that are not our concern? Haven't you heard the story of the monkey which pulled out the wedge from the log,” asked Damanaka. 

“Sounds interesting. Why don't you tell me what happened to the monkey,” pleaded Damanaka. 

“Now, listen,” said Damanaka and began narrating the story of the monkey.

Common Misunderstandings in Advaita Vedanta

By Prashant Parikh, a student of traditional Vedanta from Arsha Vidya Gurukulam
Vedanta is a very deep and delicate subject. Understanding it requires utmost dedication and preparedness. There are some errors I come across routinely in my discussions with people, so here are a few of them I addressed for our readers:

1) The Self can’t be experienced: The human mind is designed to go outwards (or even inwards) to gain experience. That is good, it allows us to innovate and progress in our worldly lives. However, when it comes to gaining AtmA jnAnam, the mind again looks for experience of an object called AtmA. This will fail miserable. AtmA is the very Self, the subject. Only an object endowed with attributes can be experienced. The consciousness, which is the Self, cannot be known as an object of experience. The Self can only be understood through the process of acquiring jnAnam through the timeless veda utterances. Tat tvam ask [Thou art That] is the teaching of the Guru, aham brahman asmi [I am Absolute Reality] is the understanding of the student. 

2) Re: Internet knowledge:  Swami Google-Ananda and Brahmacharini Wikipedia are not reliable teachers of Vedic knowledge. Please do not use search engines to learn scriptures, they will only add to the confusion.

3) Re: Finding a Guru:  There is no substitute for a living teacher. If a person was not your Guru WHILE he was alive, after his passing away you cannot consider him your teacher. A guru is supposed to remove your ignorance in an interactive way. Those who are no longer with us simply cannot help us with our doubts.

Also be careful, too many cooks spoil the broth. This is to be avoided at all costs, please stick to one parampara if it is clarity that you wish to have, having a teacher from all possible faiths is not going to help better understand shAstra.

4) Mala Japa is NOT a substitute for knowledge to gain mokSha:  Many falsely believe only chanting a particular mantra is the fastest way to mokSha. This is as far from the truth as it can get. Bhakti (devotion) leads to jnAnam (knowledge), and self knowledge alone is liberation. Krishna Bhagwan is crystal clear about this, it is unfortunate that people misinterpret his teachings. Gita Ch 4, verse 38 says ‘there is nothing more purifying than knowledge’. Gaining AtmA jnAnam (self knowledge) from a qualified teacher who can handle shAstra (scripture) as a pramANam (means of knowledge) is the only way to go.

5) Shraddha [trust in the teacher and scriptures] makes life easy… Very easy:  Debate only generates heat, and no light. Either we argue or we learn. Humility is the key to opening the doors to knowledge, if one approaches the scriptures with a challenging attitude, the Vedas will always elude such a person. Sincere seeker-ship is always rewarded. shraddhA is faith in one’s dev-guru-shAstra (god, guru, scripture).

6) Re: Tradition:  Respect the Vedic culture. Culture is the medium through which knowledge is propagated. You cannot separate knowledge from traditional practices. If one dies, the other will not last very long. Vedic culture and religion go hand in hand and are inseparable. Both need your support.

7) Re: Purpose of Meditation:  Entering into meditation will NOT enlighten a person. Meditation can be divided into four types: a) Relaxation b) Concentration c) Expansion d) Value assimilation.
Relaxation does just what it says. Concentration hones your ability to focus on a vastu (thing) for longer uninterrupted periods. Expansion is where your cognition reaches out to incorporate a vishva rUpa of this jagat/ishvara, wherein you try to visualize yourself from the smallest particle, to the farthest reaches of space and time, where nothing in the universe is separate from you. Value-based meditation is where you bring about a transformation in thoughts.

Meditation before gaining knowledge is a good conditioning program to prepare your mind for knowledge, also called upAsana yoga. Meditation after studying scriptures is a program to help assimilate knowledge, also known as nidhidhyAsanam Of course to gain jIvan-mukti/moksha, shAstric jnAnam is indispensable.

8 ) There aren’t MANY gods:  So many needless Vishnu vs Shiva fights can be avoided. Vishnu and Shiva are manifestations of the same Ishvara, presented to you in whichever form you prefer Same goes with other representations such as Ganesha, Matajis etc.The whole purpose of this diversity is to appreciate Ishvara’s creation, not create divisions within Ishvara… Every form is a form of Ishvara alone. This is the beauty of advaita which so few understand and appreciate. To be clear, there is only one Ishvara.

9) Vedanta is a means of self-knowledge:  Upanishads stand as a consistent part of the Vedas, there are no contradictions. The former half of the Vedas treat you as a doer, prescribing necessary actions/karmas that you can perform in the form of rituals, prayers, duties etc, the latter half reveals the nature of the very inquirer.

10) Different religions do NOT lead to the same goal:  All religions are not the same. Often I read posts like. Church = Temple = Mosque = 6 letters. Bible = Quran = Geeta = 5 letters, so all religions teach the same thing. While I can appreciate the intention, it is just a dishonest pseudo secular way to look at things.

The goal of most other religions is a temporary heaven. Logic says that a limited action cannot earn a permanent result. Limited actions on earth can only buy you limited stay in heaven, the concept of eternal heaven and hell are logically faulty.

The goal of a Vaidika is mokSha, and that is absolute freedom from all limitations – bodily or otherwise. As Swamiji says, when you are in heaven, you still may have to struggle to get a “front seat” to see your favorite God! So let us accept that all religions are different, and let us accommodate the differences without badmouthing them, and focus on our own

11) Different yogas do NOT give the same result:  Karma yoga, jnAana yoga, bhakti yoga and dhyAna yoga are not different ways to achieve the same end. Karma yoga and dhyAna yoga (or more precisely, upAsana yoga) are preparatory steps to achieve jnAana. Bhakti is the attitude with which we conduct all our activities. Ultimately it boils down to mokSha through jnAna alone: jnAnam is equivalent to mokSha.

12) AtmA is NOT a part/product/property of Brahman:  AtmA is brahman, that’s all.

13) AtmA does NOT take rebirth:  AtmA is often mistaken to be the sukshma sharira (subtle body: the mind, sense powers, powers of action and the prANas). It is the subtle body that goes from birth to birth, inhabiting one physical body after another.

14) There is only ONE AtmA:  The AtmA is an all pervading entity, and there is only one AtmA. Rather, there is ONLY AtmA/brahman, and this world of names and forms is a manifestation. When one dreams, a single individual creates an entire universe of forms within his own mind, and then enters that very dream to experience it, and now the dream that was within the individual suddenly appears to be a real world outside of the individual.

Friday, 12 October 2012

Must Hindus be Vegetarians?

This is a popular question... Must Hindus be Vegetarians...? If so what is the significance of being a vegetarian?

First of all, Hinduism does not have any theories of "must do" or "must not do".

In Hinduism there is a cardinal virtue called ahimsa. Cardinal means, of the greatest importance or fundamental. Ahimsa means non-violence. The practice of not hurting other living things either through physical force, words and even thoughts is the highest practice of goodness in Hinduism. A person who is able to live a life while observing all the edicts of ahimsa can be considered a saint. Our Hindu gurus and leaders such as Mahatma Gandhi are and were exponents of ahimsa. By extension of observing ahimsa, vegetarianism came to be. Whereby, the ideal practice of ahimsa inflicts no harm to life even in feeding oneself.

When it comes to rules, such as 'must I be vegetarian to be Hindu,' the answer is no. One does not need to be a vegetarian to call oneself a Hindu. This is because Hinduism does not enforce nor dictate commandments on how to live life. Rather, Hindu scriptures provide guidelines as to the ideal ways of living life and leaves it up to the devotee to 'grow' into them. In Hinduism it is accepted that as a devotee grows more and more spiritually aware, he or she will eventually become vegetarian.

In Hindu culture, to keep devotees reminded of the ideal of vegetarianism and ahimsa, Hindu families who are not vegetarians will observe vegetarianism at least once a week, (usually on the family's temple day) on a day of their choosing and also on religious festival days. I must state that the reason Hindus choose not to eat meat on certain days of the week has nothing to do with superstition or taboos. Instead, it is a practice that is observed to keep us reminded of the ideals of ahimsa, of which vegetarianism is just one of the ahimsa practices, that we should all be striving towards.

When we look at the greater observance of practicing ahimsa, controlling anger, jealousy, greed and hatred, even eradicating these impulses altogether from oneself is of far greater merit than being vegetarian. This is because performing hurtful deeds (through action, speech or even thoughts) out of anger or rage are far more destructive (meaning carrying a heavier negative karma) compared to eating meat.

Thus as Hindus, there is no force nor commandment that we must be vegetarians. However, it is an ideal that we should eventually incorporate in our life.

Are Hindu Gods married?

We are accustomed to listening to stories where God is portrayed having a family with children. For instance Lord Shiva has his family where his wife is Parvathi and His children are Ganesha and Murugan (Kartikeya). Even in temple ceremonies there is the Tirukalyanam or Holy Wedding.

Is this the truth of the matter? No. God is actually not married. Logically God doesn't need to be married. When you understand that God is the Creator of the entire Universe it is obvious that he doesn't need to be married and that all the beings in the Universe are already His (Her) children. God is already the Father/Mother of the Universe.

So what about the stories of God being married and all? Well these stories are fictional. Even the popular story like how Ganesha got his elephant face is fictional. These stories are are contained in a series of secondary scriptures called Puranas. There are thousands of Puranas in Hinduism, like the Shiva Puranas, Vishnu Puranas and so forth. These scriptures were created to record history and also to transmit philosophical truths, practical advise, morals and culture to people through entertainment mainly in the form of fictional stories. Without the stories in the Puranas, Hindu teachings would be too cut and dry, and for most people it would be boring to sit in a lecture about Hindu philosophy. Thus gurus of the past and even today continuously create stories based on truths and certain events to teach Hinduism.

As an example let us go back to the story of how Ganesha got his head. It has all sorts of teachings in it and even today the story is fascinating, though there are a lot of philosophical errors in it. For instance, according to the story God (Shiva) cut the head of His son (later to be replaced by an elephant head) because He did not know that the boy was His son. How can the Omniscient Lord not know His own son, one might ask rightly? Why should God have replace his son's decapitated head with that of an elephant, why not use the original head? The truth on the other hand is rather simple. That is that, Ganesha chose to have an elephant face to represent that he is the Guardian of Earth. Indeed the elephant is such an unique animal and a good choice to represent earth. As you can see the truth is simple. The story is lots more fun.

Even in todays scientific times, we are still enamored with stories of fictitious superheros and superheroins. Batman, Superman, Wonderwoman, Spiderman and so forth are adored by their fans and their exploits in the stories are often subjects of conversation even if we know they are all imagination. It is the same with the Puranic stories, however, the superhero personalities in these stories are God and the angles and demons of heaven and hell.

The Puranas were also created to trasmit the perception of God's closeness to His devotees in a more mundane and simpler way instead of a deeper more complex spiritual closeness. That is why there is marriage and family issues, so that devotees can easily relate with God in their day to day life and draw examples and anecdotes of idealism and right action from such stories. The ceremonies in the temple too, such as the Holy Wedding (Tirukalyanam) were created for the pleasure of devotees. It is just like the the ceremonies of waking God in the morning and putting Him to sleep at night. God doesn't sleep nor wake up, but the priests and devotees certainly do. So at the start of the day and end of it God is 'awakened' and ceremoniously 'sent to bed.'

These stories are the basis of much drama, song and dance in Hindusim. They are an essential part of our religion. However, one cannot take the Puranas and claim them to be absolute truth of what had happened. So Gods warring with each other or getting married and so forth should be understood in the light that they are fictional stories meant to transmit teachings of Hinduism indirectly.

The first sloka of one of the great works of KaaLidhaasa, Raghuvamsa Mahaakaavya indicates the unity of Lord Shiva and Shakthi. Lord Shiva is the immortal paramaathman which is always enjoying in the self. When It intends to create the worlds the Shakthi emerges out . When all the worlds that are created are active the Shiva and Shakthi appear to be two different entities, but they are the same Truth. When everything finally become inactive into the Lord during the Mahaa Samhaara time (Destruction) Shiva and Shakthi will become one and the same. There is a nice hymn in the starting of Kaliththokai (A Tamil sangam literature - B.C.) which praises the Dance of destruction that the Lord do, in which he describes the stillness of Shakthi in the Mahaa Samhaara time.

In this hymn KaaLidhaasa describes the inseparability of Shiva and Shakthi with two nice examples. Every word in any language has its sound also. When we look into the word we automatically remember the way it is read. They are always together. Similarly every word has its own meaning. It is not possible to say the word alone and not convey its meaning or without the words trying to say something. When we think of the word automatically its meaning comes into our mind.

"They are inseparable like the word and its sound (the way it is read), and like the word and its meaning. To those Parvathi and Parameeshwara, who are the parents of this world, Salutations. "

What is Advaita, or nonduality?

What is Advaita, or nonduality? Advaita means nondual or "not two." This oneness is a fundamental quality of everything. Everything is a part of and made of one nondual conciousness. Often the question arises, "If it is all one thing, why don’t I experience it that way?" This is confusing oneness for the appearance of sameness. Things can appear different without being separate. Just look at your hand for a moment. Your fingers are all different from each other, but are they separate? They all arise from the same hand. Similarly, the objects, animals, plants and people in the world are all definitely different in their appearance and functioning. But they are all connected at their source—they come from the same source. This one Being that is behind all life has an infinite number of different expressions that we experience as different objects.

To continue with the hand analogy, your fingers are all made of the same substance. They are made up of similar tissues, cells, atoms, and at the deepest level, subatomic particles. Similarly, when your experience of reality becomes more subtle, you discover that everything is just different expressions of one field of nondual Being. Below is a wonderful little story about the meaning and definition of nonduality or Advaita written by Dennis Waite (of that explores this in more depth.

But what about your experience right now? Is it possible to realize this subtle oneness or nonduality in ordinary experience? It is, if you set aside the expectation of a dramatic awakening to the experience of oneness and explore the nondual nature of reality a little bit at a time. Just as even a single drop of water is wet, you can experience oneness in even simple everyday experiences, since oneness is a fundamental quality of everything that exists.

As an experiment, just notice your fingers and the palm of your hand. Can you say where one starts and the other ends, or are they one thing? To take this further, where does your hand stop and your forearm begin? Can you experience the oneness of your hand and your forearm? If these are not separate, then what about other parts of your body? Are your feet and your ears really one even though they are so different? Now notice if there really is a separation between your thoughts and your head. Where does your head stop and something else called thought begin? What about feelings or desires? Are they really separate from you or your body?

Now, notice the simple sensations you are having: the sounds you are hearing, the sensations of touch, and the objects and events you are seeing. If you are seeing something, where does the seeing stop and something else called the eye begin? If you are hearing sounds, where does the sound start and the ear stop? Perhaps the hearing, the sound, and your ear are all one thing. Yes, the ear is different from the sound, but in the act of hearing, they become one thing.

Then, where does the source of the sound stop and the sound itself start? For example, if a bird is singing outside your window, where does the bird stop and the sound of its song begin? Or are they one thing? If the bird and its song are one thing, and your hearing and the song are one thing, then is it possible that you and the bird are also one thing?

Nondual consciousness is the natural state.

The Advaita truth of nondual consciousness, or oneness of Being, has often been thought of as something hidden or difficult to experience, when it is quite ordinary and available in every moment. Nondual consciousness is the natural state. Of course, a dramatic experience of oneness is a rare event. But why wait for something so rare when this sweet and satisfying oneness is right here, right now?

What is Advaita or Nonduality?

- by Dennis Waite
"So, Swami-ji, what would you say that Advaita is?" The eager young woman crossed her legs and sat expectantly, pencil poised above a pristine pad of paper.

"It simply means ‘not two' - the ultimate truth is nondual," replied the Sage, reclining in a large and comfortable-looking armchair and not sitting in an upright lotus position, as he ought to have been, for the sake of the photograph that she had just taken, if nothing else.

She continued to wait for further elucidation before beginning to write but it soon became apparent that the answer had been given. "But is it a religion? Do you believe in God, for example?"

"Ah, well, that would depend upon what you mean by those words, wouldn't it?" he responded, irritatingly. "If, by ‘religion', you mean does it have priests and churches and a band of followers who are prepared to kill non-believers, then the answer is no. If, on the other hand, you refer to the original, literal meaning of the word, namely to ‘bind again', to reunite the mistaken person that we think we are with the Self that we truly are, then yes, it is a religion. Similarly, if by ‘God' you mean a separate, supernatural being who created the universe and will reward us by sending us to heaven if we do what He wants, then the answer is no. If you use the term in the sense of the unmanifest, non-dual reality, then yes, I most certainly do believe in God."

The pencil raced across the paper, recording the answer for the benefit of the magazine's readers but, as the words clashed with previous ideas in her memory, the lack of a clear resolution of her questions was reflected by an increasing puzzlement in her expression.

He registered this with compassion and held out his hand towards her. "Give me a piece of paper from your pad." She looked up, mouth slightly open as she wondered why he could possibly want that. But she turned the pad over, carefully tore off the bottom sheet and placed it in his outstretched hand. He turned to the table at his right and deftly began to fold and refold the paper. After a few moments, he turned back and, before she had had time to see what he had done, he held the paper aloft and launched it into the air. It rose quickly and circled gracefully around the room before losing momentum and diving to meet a sudden end when its pointed nose hit a sauce bottle on the dining table. "Could you bring it back over here do you think?" he asked.

"So, what would you say that we have here?" he asked, as she handed it back to him.

"It's a paper aeroplane," she replied, with just a hint of questioning in her voice, since the answer was so obvious that she felt he must have some other purpose in mind.

"Really?" he responded and, in an instant, he screwed up the object and, with a practised, over-arm movement, threw it effortlessly in a wide arc, from which it landed just short of the waste paper basket in the corner of the room. "And now?" he asked.

"It's a screwed-up ball of paper", she said, without any doubt in her voice this time.

"Could you bring it back again, please", he continued. She did so, wondering if this was typical of such an interview, spending the session chasing about after bits of paper like a dog running after a stick. He took the ball and carefully unfolded it, spread it out on the table and smoothed his hand over it a few times before handing it back to her. "And now it is just a sheet of paper again," he said, "although I'm afraid it's a bit crumpled now!"

He looked at her, apparently anticipating some sign of understanding if not actual revelation but none was forthcoming. He looked around the room and, after a moment, he stood up, walked over to the window and removed a rose from a vase standing in the alcove. Returning to his seat, he held the rose out to her and asked, "What is this?"

She was feeling increasingly embarrassed as it was clear he was trying to explain something fundamental, which she was not understanding. Either that or he was mad or deliberately provoking her, neither of which seemed likely, since he remained calm and open and somehow intensely present. "It's a flower," she replied eventually.

He then deliberately took one of the petals between his right-hand thumb and fore-finger and plucked it. He looked at her and said, "And now?" She didn't reply, though it seemed that this time he didn't really expect an answer. He continued to remove the petals one by one until none remained, looking up at her after each action. Finally, he pulled the remaining parts of the flower head off the stem and dropped them onto the floor, leaving the bare stalk, which he held out to her. "Where is the flower now?" he asked. Receiving no reply, he bent down and picked up all of the petals, eventually displaying them in his open hand. "Is this a flower?" he asked.

She shook her head slowly. "It was a flower only when all of the petals and the other bits were all attached to the stem."

"Good!" he said, appreciatively. "Flower is the name that we give to that particular arrangement of all of the parts. Once we have separated it into its component parts, the flower ceases to exist. But was there ever an actual, separate thing called ‘flower'? All of the material that constituted the original form is still here in these parts in my hand.

"The paper aeroplane is an even simpler example. There never was an aeroplane was there? And I don't just mean that it was only a toy. There was only ever paper. To begin with, the paper was in the form of a flat sheet for writing on. Then, I folded it in various ways so that it took on an aerodynamic shape which could fly through the air slowly. The name that we give to that form is ‘aeroplane'. When I screwed it up, the ball-shape could be thrown more accurately. ‘Aeroplane' and ‘ball' were names relating to particular forms of the paper but at all times, all that ever actually existed was paper.

"Now, this sort of analysis applies to every ‘thing' that you care to think of. Look at that table over there and this chair on which you are sitting. What are they made of? You will probably say that they are wooden chairs?"

He looked at her questioningly and she nodded, knowing at the same time that he was going to contradict her. "Well, they are made of wood certainly, but that does not mean that they are wooden chairs! On the contrary, I would say that this, that you are sitting on, is actually chairy wood, and that object over there is tably wood. What do you say to that?"

"You mean that the thing that we call ‘chair' is just a name that we give to the wood when it is that particular shape and being used for that particular function?" she asked, with understanding beginning to dawn.

"Exactly! I couldn't have put it better myself. It is quite possible that I could have a bag full of pieces of wood that can be slotted together in different ways so that at one time I might assemble them into something to sit upon, another time into something to put food upon and so on. We give the various forms distinct names and we forget that they are ONLY names and forms and not distinct and separate things.

"Look - here's an apple," he said, picking one out of the bowl on the table and casually tossing it from one hand to the other before holding it up for her to examine. "It's round or to be more accurate, spherical; its reddish in colour and it has", he sniffed it, "a fruity smell. No doubt if I were to bite into it, I would find it juicy and sweet.

"Now all of these - round, red, fruity, juicy, sweet - are adjectives describing the noun ‘apple.' Or, to use more Advaitic terms, let me say that the ‘apple' is the ‘substantive' - the apparently real, separately existing thing - and all of the other words are ‘attributes' of the apple - merely incidental qualities of the thing itself. Are you with me so far?"

She nodded hesitantly but, after a little reflection, more positively.
"But suppose I had carried out this analysis with the rose that we looked at a moment ago. I could have said that it was red, delicate, fragrant, thorny and so on. And we would have noted that all of those were simply attributes and that the actual existent thing, the substantive, was the rose. But then we went on to see that the rose wasn't real at all. It was just an assemblage of petals and sepals and so on - I'm afraid I am not a botanist! In the same way, we could say that the apple consists of seeds and flesh and skin. We may not be able to put these things together into any form different from an apple but Nature can.

"If you ask a scientist what makes an apple an apple, he will probably tell you that is the particular configuration of nucleotides in the DNA or RNA of the cells. There are many different species of apple and each one will have a slight variation in the chromosomes and it is that which differentiates the species. If you want to explain to someone what the difference is between a Bramley and a Granny Smith, you will probably say something like ‘the Bramley is large and green, used mainly for cooking and is quite sharp tasting, while the Granny Smith is still green but normally much smaller and sweeter'. But these are all adjectives or attributes. What is actually different is the physical makeup of the cell nuclei.

"But, if we look at a chromosome or a strand of DNA, are we actually looking at a self-existent, separate thing? If you look very closely through an electron microscope, you find that DNA is made up of four basic units arranged in pairs in a long, spiral chain. And any one of these units is itself made up of atoms of carbon, hydrogen, oxygen and nitrogen, again arranged in a very specific way. So even those are not separate ‘things-in-themselves'; they are names given to particular forms of other, more fundamental things.

"And so we arrive at atoms - even the ancient Greeks used to think that everything was made up of atoms. Are these the final ‘substantives' with all of the apparent things in the world being merely attributes? Well, unfortunately not. Science has known for a long time that atoms mainly consist of empty space with electrons spinning around a central nucleus of protons and neutrons. And science has known for somewhat less time that these particles, which were once thought to be fundamental, are themselves not solid, self-existent things but are either made up of still smaller particles or are in the form of waves, merely having probabilities of existence at many different points in space.

"Still more recently, science claimed that all of the different particles are themselves made out of different combinations of just a few particles called quarks and that those are the ultimately existing things. But they have not yet progressed far enough. The simple fact of the matter is that every ‘thing' is ultimately only an attribute, a name and form superimposed upon a more fundamental substantive. We make the mistake of thinking that there really is a table, when actually there is only wood. We make the mistake of thinking that there is really wood, when actually there is only cellulose and sugars and proteins. We make the mistake of thinking there is protein when this is only a particular combination of atoms. "Ultimately, everything in the universe is seen to be only name and form of a single substantive.

The journalist was transfixed; not exactly open-mouthed but her pencil had not moved for some time. Eventually, she asked in a small voice: "But then where do I fit into all of this?"

"Ah", he replied. "That again depends upon what you mean by the word ‘I'. Who you think you are - ‘Sarah' - is essentially no different from the table and chair. You are simply name and form, imposed upon the non-dual reality. Who you really are, however... well, that is quite different - you are that nondual reality. You see, in the final analysis, there are not two things; there is only nonduality. That is the truth; that is Advaita." (by Dennis Waite)