Archives for category: Hinduism
meditation-I-AM-HIP-HOP

Credit : iamhiphopmagazine.com

 

Taking as a bow the great weapon of the Upanishad.

One should put upon it an arrow, sharpened by meditation,

Stretching it with a thought directed to the essence of That,

Penetrate the Imperishable as the mark, my friend,

The mystic syllable OM is the bow, The arrow is the soul,

Brahman is said to be the mark,

By the undistracted man is IT to be penetrated.

One should come to be in IT, as the arrow ( in the mark).

                                                               MUNDAKA   UPANISHAD

 

 

The one who, himself without colour, by the manifold application of his power

Distributes many colours in his hidden purpose,

And to whom, its end and its beginning, the whole world

dissolves – He is God!

May He endow us with clear intellect.

                                                   SVETASHVATARA  UPANISHAD

 

 

From the unreal lead me to the real,

From darkness lead me to light,

From death lead me to immortality.

                                            BRIHAD-ARANYAKA  UPANISHAD

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Credit : International Society for Krishna Consciousness ( ISKCON )

 

 

As the indweller  ( the soul ) in the body experiences childhood, youth and old age in the body,

So does it pass on to another body. Therefore the wise  man is not confused.

 

It is neither born nor does it die. Coming into being and ceasing to be do not take place in it.

Unborn, eternal, constant and ancient, it is not killed when the body is slain

( it does not cease to exist when the body perishes)

 

As a man casting off worn out garments puts on new ones,

So the embodied one ( the soul) casting off worn out bodies enters into others that are new.

the sun

Artist: Pieter Weltevrede Credit: http://www.sanatansociety.com

The Sun was one of the most important gods of the early Vedic period, influenced by Aryan beliefs. However, in the later Vedic period with growing philosophical sophistication  produced by the influence of pre- Vedic indigenous belief systems  and the arrival of the Trinity of Creator, Sustainer and Annihilator, the Sun progressively lost his pre-eminence in the Hindu cosmological framework. Yet as a visible and active symbol of godhead he continued to retain his hold on  Hindu spiritual inclinations. Vedic hymns are numerous that extol his grandeur in exquisite Sanskrit poetry. There are many Sanskrit words for sun each with a slight difference in the highlighting of some quality of the Sun : Aditya, the giver of light; Ravi, luminous;  Savitar, impeller towards light and enlightenment; Divakar, the one who gives us daylight; Mihir the one who waters the earth; Sakshi, the witness; Karmasakshi, the witness of our deeds and the most common, Surya, Lord Sun. These names are very commonly found among men in India.

One of the most beautiful Vedic hymns to Surya is recited universally in India, touching ones heart and soul.:

Asato ma sat gamaya ( Lead us from falsehood to truth)

Tamaso ma jyotir gamaya ( Lead us from darkness to light )

Mrityor ma Amritam gamaya ( Lead us from death to immortality)

 It is a motto and morning theme song at schools to inspire young students. I was delighted to find that it has also inspired Hollywood, becoming the concluding incantation of the popular blockbuster Sci-fi film, Matrix Resolutions.

There is also the famous Gayatri Mantra which is the mystical mantra that promotes enlightenment. Lord Krishna in the Hindu bible the Bhagawad Gita tells Arjun his disciple and friend that of all the Mantras he is the Gayatri, the highest. The mantra has profound mystical depths. It suggests the connectivity of the earth ( life on the material plane ), the cosmos ( the created physical universe) and the spiritual realms, the different levels of reality permeated by a divine essence, manifested through the transporting light of the Sun, upon which we meditate, praying that thereby ones mind is enlightened:

Om, bhur buvaha svaha ( earth, sky, and heavens)

Tat savitur varenyam ( the divine essence manifesting through the creative principle of light, the sun, worthy of praise)

Bhargo devasya dhimahi ( that divine light we meditate upon)

Dhiyo yo naha prachodayat ( may our intellect and mind be illuminated by it)

 

The role of the Sun as a vehicle to facilitate such enlightenment is central to the mantra

 

According to legend when Lord Rama, earthly manifestation of the supreme godhead, became fatigued and despondent in his battle against the demon king Ravana, his mentor the sage Agastya initiated him into worship of the Sun with the Aditya Hridaya Stotra ( heart of the Sun hymn ) which then reinforced his confidence and strength. The hymn is often prescribed to strengthen resolve and assure success in adversity.

In southern India in the state of Tamil Nadu one of the most celebrated festivals is that of Pongal , while in the North the festival of Makar Sakranti is the most auspicious, both dedicated to the sun when it enters the sign of Capricorn and begins it six month journey of empowerment through summer.

Konark-06

credit: indiaouting.com

A famous Sun temple in the east is the magnificent tenth century Konarak temple in Orissa state. The stone temple is shaped like a giant chariot drawn by the Sun’s seven solar steeds, representing the days of the week, with giant stone wheels having twelve spokes representing the Signs of the Zodiac. Another famous temple is at Kumbakaran in Tamilnadu. It enshrines the sun as the principle deity surrounded by the other eight ‘planets’ facing him. Pilgrims with planetary afflictions ( Doshas) in their horoscopes visit the temple to appease the deities for mitigation of the afflictions. This is the only temple in India where all nine planets are found together. The Sun is also called Adivar, the first among the planets and is called the king of the planets.

Several royal families claim descent from the Sun – the Suryavanshis – with the legendary avatar Lord Rama being the foremost among them.

According to one legend, the Sun is the son of Indra, lord of the heavens. According to another he is the son of the sage Kashyap and Aditi, the earth. The legend goes that Aditi found one of her sons in the shape of an egg and presuming it to be lifeless called it Martand ( dead egg) and cast him into the sky. However in the sky the egg shone with brilliance and Surya was born.

The sacred sign of the Swastika used often in ritual prayer is also sometimes taken to represent the Sun.

Another interesting legend is about the marriage of Sanjana, daughter of the divine engineer and craftsman Vishvakarma ( the god of all mechanics) , to the Sun. Their first child was Manu, the Indian equivalent of Adam. however, Sanjana could not bear the brilliance of her consort and whenever the Sun approached her, she looked away. angered by this the Sun cursed her with fearsome progeny. She then gave birth to the god of death, Yama, and Yamuna, the river which skirts the capital Delhi and is notorious for overflowing her banks causing annual suffering and havoc. Finally unable to bear his presence she fled to the woods, leaving behind her sister, shadow ( chaya). At first the Sun mistook her for Sanjana and we have learnt of a son emerging from that unlikely union in the shape of Shani ( Saturn). Later on discovering the subterfuge he abandoned Chaya and ventured forth to find his beloved Sanjana, who meanwhile transformed herself into a mare to escape detection. Surya located her and transformed himself into a stallion and mated with her. She kept changing form into that of other female animals while he did likewise as a male animal, each time mating with her, thus populating the world with many species of animals. 

sudarshanMeanwhile Sanjana’s father Visvakarma sought to remedy the problem of too much brilliance with some divine engineering and taking some of the solar fire out of Surya recast it into weapons for the gods. Thus Lord Vishnu acquired the flashing discus which he is depicted as swirling on his finger, Lord Shiva his splendid trident, lord Yama, god of death his staff and lord Kuber, god of wealth, the mace.

Lord Surya also fathered the monkey king Sugriva of the Ramayana. In the other epic the Mahabharata, Kunti the mother of the heroes the Pandavas, nurses the guilt of having borne a child out-of-wedlock from the Sun, without really wanting to. She had steadfastly worshiped the Sun in the hope that he would grant her a vision of himself. He did more than that and left her with an unwanted child, Karna. Karna was allowed to drift in a basket to his fate but was rescued by a childless couple who reared him. When later he learnt of his true identity from his mother he became deeply resentful and swore revenge on his half brothers, joining the ranks of their bitter enemies. Karna becomes one of the most tragic figures of Indian mythology.

sculpture_at_konark_temple

Lord Surya sculpture – Sun temple Konarak

These are some of the colourful legends about the Sun in Vedic, Puranic and later Hindu mythology, influencing the imagination and spirituality of worshipers. Worship of the Sun as a deity has however dwindled and is confined only to a few corners of the subcontinent. However, the Vedic god appears to have found permanent sanctuary in Hindu astrology and is prominent in the Hindu calendar as the principal planet with a day of the week, Sunday, Ravivar, dedicated to him. For determination of time and casting of horoscopes the time of sunrise and sunset play a crucial role.

 In Hindu astrology he is significator of Atma, the soul and also of the individual ego. He is also the significator of father in the horoscope, health, courage, honour, status, fame and power. He also is significator of eyes and vision, bones and a balanced nature. A strong well placed Sun in the horoscope is an indication of a dynamic extrovert personality. Surya is however in astrological terms considered a somewhat malefic planet, probably in view of the heat he generates resulting in drought.

The Sun is lord of only one Sign in the Zodiac, Leo. He is exalted in Aries and debilitated in Libra. He is friendly towards the Moon, Mars, and Jupiter, inimical to Saturn and Venus and neutral towards Mercury. His gemstone is the red ruby and metal, gold. His day is Sunday. Devotees are advised to do the Surya Namaskar, prayers to the Sun, as it rises each morning, for good health and spiritual evolution. It is a common sight to see them by the river bank or sea-shore at dawn with folded hands.

 

varanasi-priest-sunrise-worship

credit: sodahead.com

 

Credit: yogananda.com.au

Credit: yogananda.com.au

yoga nanda

Yogananda was a remarkable Indian sage who took upon himself  the arduous task of introducing Hindu mystical thought and esoteric practices in Yoga to the West. He traveled to America in 1920 to attend a Congress of Religious Liberals in Boston but stayed on for over 30 years spreading his message from coast to coast. He founded the International Centre for Self Realization Fellowship (SRF) in Los Angeles to disseminate his teachings and practices. A large following of disciples developed over the years with numerous celebrities. Yogananda thus became the first pioneering Indian mystic to set up base in the USA and spread the teachings in the USA rather than in India. The second notable personage to do so was Prabupadh who founded the Hare Krishna movement with branches all over the states and thereafter in most parts of the world including India.

Yoganand’s ‘’The Autobiography of a YOGI’’ ( First Edition Copyright Paramhansa Yogananda) is an extraordinary story of his mystical life full of incredible miracles that gives one a fresh perspective of reality and shakes to the roots our settled beliefs about the ‘Natural Material Order’’. The book relates incredible accounts of Great Master Yogis materializing and vanishing, healing miraculously incurable ailments, bringing back people from death, walking on water, bringing trains to a halt through sheer will power, levitating and even resurrecting themselves.

What particularly struck me in the book was his explanation of our material reality as a grand illusion whose veil has to be penetrated to arrive at the true nature of reality. The Indian Master Yogis and sages appear to have succeeded in piercing that ‘veil’ and learned to become one with the quantum reality thereby performing what appear to be incredible feats. He quotes from Sir James Jeans’s book ‘The Mysterious Universe’ – ‘’the universe begins to look more like a great thought than like a great machine.’’ An analogy he made impressed me deeply. Holding that the material world and we with it are aspects of light, he likens our ‘real world’ to the projection of images by a projector on a cinema screen . He relates his mystical experience in which his body lost its grossness and acquired an astral quality. While the walls and furniture remained gross, the ceiling of the room  became a blinding mass of light. From within the light a voice appeared to speak out saying ‘’ This is the cosmic motion picture mechanism …. It is producing the picture of your body…. Your form is nothing but light’’.

yogananda youthIn the book Yoganand as a youth refuses to conform to an ordinary life despite his father’s every effort and barely graduates before he continues his avid search for masters and Gurus. In the process he finds strange and amazing beings in remote corners of India engaged in their incredible and ‘magical’ feats which appear to give the lie to our settled beliefs about the nature of the reality in which we live, and the natural physical laws which appear to govern us.

Credit: speakingtree.in

Credit: speakingtree.in

At the dawn of history, Indian sages sought to explain their profound esoteric insights not through academic discourses but through parables and simple analogies, succeeding splendidly thereby in imparting knowledge of their insights more convincingly than would have been the case with the pedantic verbiage of philosophical concepts. Svetaketu was thus instructed by his father Uddalika in the knowledge of the Self or Soul in the Chandogya Upanishad, making him understand a central truth through the aphorism ”That thou art” – Tat Tvam Asi, which appearing in this parable became famous: ( excerpts )

THE    EDUCATION    OF    SVETAKETU

There lived once Svetaketu Aruneya…to him his father Uddalika said: ” Svetaketu go to school; for there is none belonging to our race, darling, who not being studied in the Veda (knowledge of the scriptures), is, as it were, a Brahmin ( learned priestly class) by birth only.”

Having begun his apprenticeship with a teacher when he was twelve years of age, Svetaketu returned to his father when he was twenty-four, having then studied all the Vedas- conceited, considering himself well read and stern.

His father said to him: ” Svetaketu, as you are so conceited, considering yourself so well read, and so stern, my dear, have you ever asked for that instruction by which we hear what cannot be heard, by which we perceive what cannot be perceived, by which we know what cannot be known?”

” What is that instruction, Sir?” he asked.

…. ” If someone were to strike at the root of this large tree here, it would bleed, but live. If he were to strike at its stem, it would bleed, but live. If he were to strike at its top, it would bleed, but live. Pervaded by the living self the tree stands firm, drinking in the nourishment and rejoicing; but if the life (the living Self) leaves one of its branches, that branch withers; if it leaves a second, that branch withers;…if it leaves the whole tree, the whole tree withers. In exactly the same manner, my son, know this. The body, indeed withers and dies when the living Self has left it, the living Self dies not. That which is the subtle essence, in it all that exists has its self. It is the True. It is the Self, and thou, O Svetaketu, art it.

“Please , sir inform me more” said the son.” ” Be it so, my child,”  the father replied.

” Fetch me thence a fruit of (yonder) tree.” ” Here is one, Sir.” ” Break it.” ” It is broken, sir.” ” what do you see there?” ” these seeds, almost infinitesimal.”              ” Break one of them.” ” It is broken, sir.’ what do you see there?’ ” not anything, Sir.” The father said: ” My son, that subtle essence which you do not perceive there, of that very essence this great tree exists. Believe it, my son. That which is the subtle essence, in it all that exists has its self. It is the True. It is the Self, and thou, O Svetaketu, art it.’

“Please , Sir, inform me still more,” said the son. ” Be it so, my child,” the father replied.

” Place this salt in water and then wait on me in the morning.”

The son did as he was commanded.

The father said to him:” Bring me the salt which you placed in the water last night.” 

The son having looked for it, found it not, for, of course, it was melted.

The father said: ” Taste it from the surface of the water. How is it?” the son replied: ” It is salt.” ” taste it from the middle. how is it?” the son replied: ” It is salt.” “Taste it from the bottom. how is it?’ The son replied: ” It is salt.” the father said; ” Throw it away and then wait on me.” He did so; but salt exists for ever. Then the father said: ” Here also, in this body, forsooth, you do not perceive the True, my son, but there indeed it is. That which is the subtle essence, in it all that exists has its self. It is the True. It is the Self, and thou, O Svetaketu, art it.”……..ENDS  – ( after many more analogies Svetaketu’s education regarding the nature of the soul was completed).

Thus through a parable and analogy was the learned yet ignorant  Svetaketu imparted the knowledge of the Soul. The Upanishads throughout employ such dialogues to convey their message.

manasa

credit: saibharati.com

Parallel to the development of the concept of Brahman as Universal Essence was that of the Soul or Atman also as being the Universal essence. The Atman was in like manner  shown as being both ubiquitous and immanent. This thought derived its inspiration from the Rig-Vedic concept of the Cosmic Person from whose eye emerged the Sun, the Moon from his mind, fire from his mouth, the wind from his breath, the sky from his head, the earth from his feet etc. Thus the Cosmic Person was seen as projecting into the forces of nature and the world.

A further extension of this thought in the Upanishads was to create a correspondence not only to the world in general but to the individual as well. Thus fire now entered the mouth of a person and became speech, wind entered the nose and became breath, the Sun became sight in the eyes, the moon became his mind and so on. While on the one hand creation was shown as emerging from the Universal Essence, on the other the created forces were shown  as producing the faculties of man. Thus the microcosm and the macrocosm were connected.

From the Cosmic Person analogy also arose the thought that the Universal Essence was a Great Soul of which the individual soul was an aspect (Ansha). Thus in the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad it is stated:

”Atman is the person in the earth and the person in the body… in fire and in speech; in wind and in breath; in the Sun and in the eye… in truth and truthfulness; in humanity and in the human; in the Self and in the self.”

The idea of the  immanence of Brahman had a cosmic magnificence while that of the extension of the Universal Soul at the core of beings as individual souls, was even more extraordinary with profound spiritual implications. It was philosophically and ethically elevating and deeply significant for the future course of Indian thought and spirituality. The Brihadaranyaka Upanishad clearly defines the emerging insight:

”That same thing, namely, this self, is the trace of this All; for by it one knows this All. Just as  ( if it were)a footprint” 

Again in the Svetashvatara Upanishad the same theme is reiterated:

” with the nature of this self, as with a lamp, a practitioner of Yoga beholds here the nature of Brahman”

The cosmic Brahman as an idea and the subtle Atman concept then began to be connected as we see in the Chandokya Upanishad : ”Who is our Atman? What is Brahman? Finally the two concepts merged and Brahman and Atman became synonymous. Thus the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad cleary states:

‘Verily, that great unborn soul, undecaying, undying, immortal, fearless is Brahman.’

And again in the Svetasvatara Upanishad it is affirmed:

‘The Soul which pervades all things…this is Brahman.’

This grand union of two complimentary concepts implied that the unitary cosmic realism of the first was now one with the innermost spiritual essence of the self and the not-self, the great spirit of a supersoul. Furthermore the linkage between the individual self and the Great Self was the ultimate step to an authentic Monism as in the resounding declaration of the Chandokya Upanishad”

‘Tat tvam asi’ – ‘That thou art’

credit:lightworkers.org

credit:lightworkers.org

 

Credit: Yagya.com

Credit: Yagya.com

The earliest Upanishads (knowledge of the self) arose in the explanations (Brahmanas) of ritualistic sacrifices and the hymns or Mantras attending them addressed to the Vedic gods of thunder, fire, sun and moon etc.The question arose as to where the chants emanated from and where they went in serving to fulfill man’s desires.

In this manner, the earliest somewhat naive speculations sought to explain the origins of the world and its substance, quite incidentally so to speak in the course of performing rituals of worship. The famous Creation Hymn of the Rig-Veda ( see previous post ) had already blazed a path by encouraging speculation in that direction. The earliest speculation was ( as also with the Greeks and Semetics) that the original substance was indeed Water. Thus the Chandokya Upanishad states:

” Atmosphere, sky, gods and man, animals and birds, grass and trees, beasts and worms, insects – all are just water solidified”

The concept of the soul (Atman) had also appeared equivocally, earlier conceived as emerging from water but later as having created the water itself and from its substance created the Cosmic Man and from its limbs created the different parts of the world.

Another postulate which gained currency was that the world arose from Space. Yet another supposition was that it arose from a Cosmic egg. In the beggining it was Non-Being and later turned into an egg. On splitting one part became the earth, the other the sky, its veins became rivers, its fluid the ocean.

Beyond the cosmogenic space and egg theories arose a more abstract and philosophical interpretation. Space arose from the Imperishable – From Non-Being arose Being.

Yagnyavalka the great sage replies his curious and persistant spouse thus:

”Verily O Gargi at the command of the Imperishable the sun and the moon arose…at (his) command the earth and the sky…the moments, the hours, the days, the nights, the fortnites, the months, the seasons and the years…at the command…some rivers flow…to the east, others to the west.”  – Brihadaranyaka Upanishad

Thus speculative theories moving from Water to Space and Golden Egg (Hiranyagarbh) finally arrived at the Imperishable and the speculations began to establish a single origin and connectivity which were the first stirrings of ‘Intelligent Monism’.

Towards the close of the Vedic period (Vedant) these diverse conjectuers were superceded by the emergence of the concept of Brahma or Brahman, a hint of which concept not yet named is already available in the Rig-Veda hymn of Creation:

”There was then neither being nor non-being…without breath breathed by its own power ‘That One’.

Thus we find that the evolving speculation arising from ritualism moved to philosophical and mystical interpretations which appeared to be heading towards  Monistic conclusion. While the ritualism and its theology was concerned with the extrovert physical world, propitiating the gods through sacrifice for earthly empowerment and mastery over the forces of nature, the transcendental philosophers had turned inwards, seeking and discovering the real source of that power rather than its superficial external evidence. Rather than channelizing this force externally for human use through magical rituals and incantations, they preferred to seek to discover its secret nature and in the process began a process of devaluing the ritualism and the gods which focussed on the external physical world, its goals and ambitions in favour of their quest for the innermost and fundamental truths.

The cosmological theories of Water, Space and Egg when compared with the emerging idea of Brahman as the source had a fundamental difference. Brahman unlike them had consciousness. Yet the concept of Brahman largely remained inconprehensible and unexplained. ( Brahman in Sanskrit loosely translated means Holy Power). While the old cosmologiies of Water, Space, Egg and even an Imperishiable entity were merely a source or origin from which  creation emerged, the new concept of Brahman became much more. The earlier theory of Brahman as the holy power had merely supplanted Water, Space and Egg. Then Brahman too while procreating the world ( procreating because Brahman felt lonely and willed that he had a consort and thus his female aspect appeared with whom he procreated the world) remained quite distict and apart from it.

But now suddenly according to the Taittriya upanishad ” having created it, into it he entered” and again we see in the Chandogya Upanishad ” That divinity thought to itself – ‘come let me enter these divinities( heat, water and food)” – thus from being the ‘One’ he progressed to being the ‘All’ No longer was Brhaman merely the creator but now he entered his own creation and became inseperable from it. We see this immanence of Brahman in the Chandogya Upanishad: ”Verily the whole world is Brahman.” This finally established the pantheism of the Upanishads which earlier had been only a latent concept. Later this was made more explicit in the Mundaka Upanishad:

” Brahma, indeed is this immortal, Brahma before,

Brahma behind, to the right and to the left,

Streched forth below and above,

Brahma, indeed, is this whole world, this widest extent.”

Again in the Manddukya upanishad:

”For truely, everything here is Brahma.”

Now, from the goals of extrovert ritualism to gain physical advatages and empowerment, the Upanishads moved to the Monist and Pantheistic conceptions of merging all objective phenomena into one unity.

The concept of Brahman had yet to take another leap in its transformation into a comprehensive concept, that of a Soul, on the one hand embracing all physical and spiritual realms as one immanent, ubiquitous supersoul and on the other as the individual soul within man. Of that, more in the next post.

Credit: revwaltermwambazi.com

Credit: revwaltermwambazi.com

credit: scienceblogs.com

credit: scienceblogs.com

Before we continue from my last post to witness the evolution of Upanishidic thought let us savour the speculative poetry on Creation of an earlier scripture the Rig – Veda, the earliest Indian treatise known which would give one an idea about the nature of speculative enquiry in that dawn of history of man. The Rig – Veda is estimated by Western scholars to have been composed between 1700 to 1100 B.C. and would therefore be man’s earliest efforts at coming to grips with the mysteries of the world in which he finds himself:

                                           C R E A T I O N

“Then was not non-existent: there was no realm of air, no sky beyond it.

What covered it, and where? and what gave shelter? Was water there,unfathomed depths of water?

Death was not then, nor was there ought immortal, no sign was there, the day’s and night’s divider.

That One Thing, breathless, breathed by its own nature: apart from it was nothing whatsoever.

Darkness there was: at first concealed in darkness this All was undiscriminated chaos.

All that existed then was void and formless: by the great power of warmth was born that unit.

Thereafter rose desire in the beginning, desire, the primal seed and germ of spirit.

Sages who searched with their heart’s thought discovered the existent’s kinship in the non-existent.

Transversely was their severing line extended: what was above it then, and what below it?

There were begetters, there were mighty forces, free action here and energy up yonder.

Who verily knows and who can here declare it, whence it was born and whence comes this creation?

The gods are later than this world’s production. Who knows then whence it first came into being?

He, the first origin of this creation, whether he formed it all or did not form it,

Whose eye controls this world in highest heaven, he verily knows it, or perhaps he knows not.”

I have yet to come across a more moving poem ( when I read this, over three thousand-year old poem, believe me my hair stands on end) as earnest uncomplicated and uninhibited and with no presumptions whatsoever yearning for an answer ( He verily knows it, or perhaps He knows not! – can any latter day believer dare ask such a question??)  – that for me was the spirit of ancient India’s quest and enquiry, fearless in its scepticism,  which eventually produced first the intense speculations of the Upanishads and later the crystalized and focussed efforts of the Gita to reply that pristine query, which for me it did.

Alexander Pope

Alexander Pope

Credit: hinduism.iskcon.org

Credit: hinduism.iskcon.org

The Upanishads are among the world’s oldest metaphysical treatises representing the philosophical inspirations and conclusions of Indian sages deep in their forest hermitages regarding the nature of reality. Scholars universally hold that they could not have been composed later than the 7th century B.C. and predate the glorious 6th century when a sudden spate of thinkers and prophets like Confucius, Buddha, Zoroaster, Homer and Pythagoras propounded new philosophies and launched great religions.

Thus at the dawn of history these pioneering and extraordinary thinkers pondered answers to fundamental questions about the nature of existence, the cosmos, man and nature and their inter-relations. From their early insights they advanced to profound philosophical and spiritual revelations  which eventually crystalized into the Monism of Hindu beliefs, the concept of the unity of the created universe, integral with the metaphysical world of the spirit, the concepts of the Soul at the heart of physical reality and the immanence of the spiritual essence in all we behold – and finally the nature of the supreme Universal Essence, the supersoul and Godhead.

Further introspection produced the fundamental philosophical premises of reincarnation through transmigration of the soul, the doctrine of Karma, the concept of Illusion and their ethical and moralistic implications. The development and crystallization of the thought has determined indelibly for millennia the belief systems, spirituality and ethics of the Hindu mind right down to the present day.

All Indian philosophical and religious traditions, whether theistic, pantheistic, materialistic or atheistic derive their ultimate inspiration from this seminal body of introspection of the thinkers and sages of yore, ruminating without any inhibitions or constraints on questions about the origin, nature and destiny of man and the universe, seeking to find answers to grasp the essence of a universal truth.

The verses are presented in Socratic fashion through dialogues between seekers after knowledge and their mentors, eminent sages, who attempt to answer  questions with questions of their own, prying, so to speak, answers from the questioners themselves. The dialogues are between the sages and their wives, kin, or disciples who present theories and propositions of their own which are either inadequate or only partially true. Thus the arguments move back and forth as the intuitive knowledge enhances and evolves. Then finally the seers who have arrived at their conclusions through insight and intuition present their vision of the truth, which has continued to inspire Hindu thoughts and beliefs to this day.

What is remarkable and wonderful in all this is that there is no  predetermined assumption nor a preordained dogma but a rare and exhilarating freedom of thought which succeeded in  grasping the truth which later crystallized as established theory or dogma. It is like a clear slate suddenly filling up with extraordinary and seminal unheard of propositions dispelling confusion and untenable and naive assumptions of pre-history.

Thus in a sense the Upanishads expose the genesis and creation of Hindu beliefs and dogma. One becomes as it were, a witness to the very process whereby a body of beliefs developed and matured. Such a vision of evolving thought is rarely available generally. It is as if in studying the evolution of man one encountered the fossils of dinosaurs, apes and our immediate ancestors the Neanderthals and Homo-erectus.

This evolution of Hindu thought witnessed in the Upanishads ( ending ignorance through knowledge in Sanskrit) is replete with numerous aphorisms and superb Sanskrit poetry and mystical insights.

The Upanishads themselves form part of the Vedas, considered by Hindus in general as the repository and fountainhead of all knowledge and religious and spiritual inspiration. Emerging from the inspirational womb of the Upanishads was the primary Hindu scripture the Bhagavad Gita.

Thus an examination of the evolution of Upanishadic thought would prove invaluable for the scholar of metaphysics in general and Hinduism in particular in witnessing the progression of man’s quest to unravel the mysteries of the universe of which he is a part.

I shall limit this post merely to introducing the Upanishads in the interests of brevity, taking up the review of the evolution of its thought in the next post. However in closing I wish to underline that what informs the dialogues are infectous and refreshing arguments and counter arguments between curious scholar – sages and students seeking to fathom the mysteries of temporal and spiritual existence transcending limiting frontiers of understanding through an unrelenting quest for truth, which is finally presented in their verses.  The Brihadaranyaka Upanishad hails that extraordinary journey from ignorance to enlightenment:

” From the unreal lead me to the real

From darkness lead me to light

From death lead me to immortality” 

( Asato ma sat gamaya

Tamaso ma jyotir gamaya

Mrityor ma amritam gamaya )

credit: ancientindianwisdom.com

credit: ancientindianwisdom.com

Credit : Krishnasmercy.org

The great lyrical and musical compositions of the mystic-poets of 16th century India have commanded the hearts and souls of devotees over the centuries and influenced and inspired present day composers and poets. The poetic compositions are sung by all the renowned singers of India set to different melodies of their choosing. One lyric has of late been casting his spell through his compositions on devotional love, similar to Meera, Sur, Tulsi, Raidas and Kabir. Narayan Agarwal in the tradition of  the devotional movement of the 16th century calls himself Narayan Das ( disciple) much as Tulsi was Tulsi Das and Sur was Surdas and Rai was Rai Das. I have tried to translate his lyrics which when set to music have moved me deeply with their fire of devotion, intensity of love, and poetic beauty, stirring the soul. I cannot say I have done full justice to the poem in question, as in translation it loses its linguistic magic, yet I hope and trust that it has retained the essence and spirit of  the devotional passion expressed by the poet. This being my 100th post, it is also a tribute to the Soul, the Indweller ( Antaryami ) within my being.

 

                            MY  HEART IS A THRONE

( hriday hamara singhasan hai, Jispe Shyam biraje

 

My heart is a throne

On which my Lord sits,

My lips are cushions

For him to recline,

Credit : ISKCON

Credit : ISKCON

My lashes are a swing

On which he sways,

His name is a song

I can never forget

Whose rhythms are my life,

Thus on my heart, lips and lashes

Back and forth as  my Lord moves,

My desire to behold him 

spreads like a fragrance

From limb to limb

And every pore, turn by turn begins

To call out his name,

My body then turns into a harp

Whose strings hum with love

As my Lord rests on his throne

 In my heart.

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Credit: fineartamerica.com

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