Ch.2 - Dharma, Papa and Punya;
Ch.4 - Sound and Creation;
Ch.6 - Mantra Yoga
Ch.7 - Acharas and Rituals
A 4-Part series.
(Access other 3 parts by clicking the link below)
A Godly Preceptor
A great saint who lived in India during the last century, popularly known as 'Maha Periyaval' (see picture above) or as 'living God' contributed a great deal to the cause of guiding the Hindus in India in the right path of dharma. This saint, called "Pujyasri Chandrasekharendra Sarasvati Svamigal", was installed as the 68th Sankaracharya of Kanchi Kamakoti Pitha and served the cause of religion as its foremost preceptor, from 1907 to 1995. "He was a divine incarnation -- indeed he was the greatest spiritual luminary of our time -- and his mission of restoring the Vedic religion to its old glory was no less significant than that of Adi Sankara."
This great master gave a series of discourses in Tamil on Hindu Dharma in all its aspects. In these lectures, he brought to bear not only his vast erudition, but also his intuitive insights and synaptic vision. In the last few centuries very few had given such lucid and clear explanations on religious thoughts, particularly on Hindu Religion.
Apart from his exemplary performance as head of the Kanchi Mutt, he contributed a great deal to the cause of the Hindus in India, through his discourses and guided them in the right path of dharma. “Throughout his public discourses and private conversations, he has been meticulous in his expressions and his focus was on truth and our Vedic scriptures. In the words of his ardent devotees, he was the greatest ‘Mayavi’- in this that he neither revealed himself as God nor as God’s voice. He was humility personified.”
The lectures given by him over a period of time since 1932 were meticulously collected and published originally in Tamil in seven volumes by Shri Ra. Ganapathi. These publications entitled ‘Deyvathin Kural’ have almost proved to be the encyclopedia of the Hindu Religion.
The first attempt towards English translation was done by Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan and this noble effort culminated in a book entitled “Hindu Dharma” which was published in 1995. All the seven volumes in Tamil are now being translated in almost all important languages of India. Some have already been published; the English and other language versions have been brought out by by Sri Kanchi Mahaswami Peetarohana Shatabdi Mahotsava Trust, Mumbai-22. I understand this effort is being continued by them for the benefit of the whole nation. What a laudable objective!
Through the several Chapters on “Celestial Truths”, I have the privilege in bringing excerpts from this book as well as the seven volumes of “Voice of God”, the English translations of Ra. Ganapathi’s “Deyvathin Kural” What you would read in this Chapter is one of such attempts.
I am not competent to comment on Periaval’s (Mahaswamy’s) erudite exposition and thoughts. But still, I have with my own limitations, tried to condense them and give explanations, wherever necessary, to suit the immediate needs of the young readers. I would recommend them to read the fuller version, whenever they find time.-Ramanan
The Purpose of Hindu Religion and Unity of All Religions
"Religion is the means of realizing (the four purusharthas-worthwhile objectives of life) dharma, artha, kama and moksha...(Whatever humans desire to have are the Purusharthas. In this. Mahaswami defines Dharma as righteousness, Artha as the desires of life, Kama as pleasures derived through the sense organs and Moksha as liberation. On each one of these he gives detailed explanation, to which we would come later-sgvr)
“The man wants to live happily without lacking for anything. There are two types of happiness: the first is ephemeral: and the second is everlasting happiness, not transient pleasure. ... The pleasure gained from material possessions is momentary and you keep constantly hankering for more.......It is because people are ignorant about such (everlasting) happiness, how elevated and enduring it is, that they hanker after the trivial and momentary joys of kama."
"Our true quest must be for the fourth artha, that is moksha.... Moksha is the state of supreme bliss and there is no quest beyond it . . . We must find release from our body and dwell in our true home, which is moksha. . . God has sentenced us to jail (imprisoned us in the body) for our sins. If we practice virtue, He will condone our sins and release us from the prison of our body before the expiry of the sentence. We must desist from committing sinful acts so that our term of imprisonment is not extended and endeavour to free ourselves and arrive in our true home,that is the Lord. This home is bliss that passeth understanding, bliss that is not bound by the limitations of time, space and matter . . ."
"If we practice dharma (denoting beneficent action, good or virtuous deeds), without expecting any reward - in the belief that Isvara gives us what He wills - and in a spirit of dedication, the impurities tainting our being will be removed and we will obtain the bliss that is exalted . . ."
"All the same it is difficult, to start with, to be without any desire altogether. Religion serves to rein in desire little by little and take a man, step by step, from petty ephemeral pleasure to the ultimate bliss. First we are taught the meaning and implication of dharma and how to practice it, then we are instructed the right manner in which material goods are to be acquired so as to practice dharma; and thirdly, we are taught the proper manner in which desire may be satisfied. It is a process of gaining maturity and wisdom to forsake petty pleasure for the ultimate bliss of moksha. "
"Moksha is release from all attachments. It is a state in which the self remains ever in untrammeled freedom and blessedness. The chief purpose of religion is to teach us how this supreme state may be attained."
"We know for certain that ordinary people do not achieve eternal happiness. The purpose of any religion is to lead them towards such happiness. Everlasting blessedness is obtained only by forsaking the quest for petty pleasures. The dictates of dharma help us to abandon the pursuits of sensual enjoyments and endeavour for eternal bliss. They are also essential to create a social order that has the same high purpose, the liberation of all. Religion, with its goal of liberation, lays down the tenets of dharma. That is why the great (people) understand the word 'dharma' itself to mean religion." –(I will present Mahaswamy’s thoughts on Dharma in the succeeding Chapter-sgvr)
(Excerpts from the book entitled Hindu Dharma: The Universal Way of Life , Voice of the Guru Pujyasri Chandrasekharendra Sarasvati Svami. Bombay: Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, 1995-pp9-11). (Italics, highlighting and underlining are mine-sgvr.)
Unity of All Religions
"All religions have one common ideal, worship of the Lord, and all of them proclaim that there is but one God. This one God accepts your devotion irrespective of the manner of your worship, whether it is according to this or that religion. So there is no need to abandon the religion of your birth and embrace another . . . "
"One big difference between Hinduism and other faiths is that it does not proclaim that it alone shows the path to liberation. Our Vedic religion has alone not practiced conversion and the reason for this is that our forefathers were well aware that all religions are nothing but different paths to realize the one and only Paramatman . . . Sri Krsna says in the Gita: 'In whatever way or form a man worships me, I increase his faith and make him firm and steady in that worship' . . . This is the reason why Hindus have not practiced-like adherents of other religions-proselytisation and religious persecution. Nor have they waged anything like the crusades or jehads. . ."
"All historians accept the fact of our religious tolerance . . . they further remark that Hinduism spread through trade and not through force."
"In my opinion the Vedic religion was once prevalent all over the world. Certain ruins and relics found in various regions of the planet attest to this fact. Even historians who disagree with my view concede that in the past people in many lands accepted Indian culture and the Indian way of life willingly and not on account of any force on our part . . . "
"It cannot be said with reason that those who ply the different vehicles are guilty of competing with one another for the fare. After all, it is their livelihood. But it makes no sense for the adherents of various faiths to vie with one another to take a man to the one and only destination that is God . . . "
"That the beliefs and customs of the various religions are different cannot be a cause for complaint. Nor is there any need to make all of them similar. The important thing is for the followers of the various faiths to live in harmony with one another. The goal must be unity and not uniformity."
(Excerpts from the book entitled Hindu Dharma: The Universal Way of Life , Voice of the Guru Pujyasri Chandrasekharendra Sarasvati Svami. Bombay: Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, 1995- pp 17-19) . (Italics, highlighting and underlining are mine-sgvr.)
Dharma, Papa and Punya
In the last chapter on purpose of religion, Mahaswamy had referred to four Purusharthas (worthwhile objectives of life), Dharma, Aratha, Kama and Moksha. Three of these are dealt with in detail below. I present here, Mahaswamy’s thoughts on what constitutes Dharma (Righteousness), Papa (Sin) & Punya (Virtuous Action). His clear thinking and lucid observations do not require any explanation.
Dharma Alone Protects
"There is a law governing the behavior of everything in this universe. All must submit to it for the world to function properly . . . It is the will of the Lord that all his creation, all his creatures should live in happiness. That is why He has ordained a Dharma, a law for each one of them. It is compliance with this Dharma that ensures all-round harmony.”
"Isvara has endowed man with intelligence, but it is by using this very intelligence that human beings keep violating that Dharma . . . You must look upon the world as belonging to the Lord, and it is your duty to so conduct yourself as to conform to this belief. This constitutes the Dharma of Humanity. Acts dictated by selfish interests will push one to unrighteousness. A man must learn to be less and less selfish in his thoughts and actions; he must always remember the Lord and must ever be conscious that he is the master of his world. This view is the basis on which all religions have evolved . . . All religions speak of an entity called God and teach man to efface his ego or 'I' feeling . . . The great importance attached to Bhakthi or devotion in all religions is founded on this belief, the need for divine support for virtuous conduct."
“If we have to reach the Lord (Moksha), we have to discharge our duties to the world and the Lord perfectly. These duties are the Dharma ordained for us. (That is to say, what brings us good while we are alive is Dharma.) ….. It is Dharma which is the permanent insurance for our good even after our death.”
"Ordinarily, it is not easy to develop faith in or devotion to God expressed in abstract terms. For the common people, devotion must take the form of practical steps. That is how rituals originated . . . The religions teach people their duties, how they must conduct themselves in this world, and how they must devote themselves to God in the very midst of their worldly life."
“There is no confusion about which Dharma we should follow. We are the inheritors of a Dharma which our forefathers have protected for generations… ……… It is best for us to follow the Dharma practiced by the great men of the past, the dharma of our forefathers."
"Love every one, Live a life of sacrifice, Serve mankind; such are the teachings of the various religions. If a man lives according to these tenets, it is believed that his soul will reach God after it departs from his body . . . By following one path or another, we attain the Lord. And that will be the end of all our sorrows, all our frustrations and all our failures in this world. There will now be nothing but bliss, full and everlasting."
"Man is subject to all kinds of hardships and misfortunes . . . If we have sweetness in the beginning, we may have to experience bitterness towards the end. We must not have any aversion for the bitter but welcome it as the medicine administered by Mother Nature or by dharma. If we do so, in due course, we will learn to regard any experience, even if it be unpleasant, as a sweet one."
"It is the escort of dharma that mother (Kausalya) provides her son (Rama) sent out from his kingdom. It was Dharma that brought victory to Rama after all his struggle. If a man treads the path of dharma he will win universal respect. If he slips into adharma, unrighteousness, even his brother will turn a foe . . . The Ramayana illustrates this truth..."
Papa and Punya
“All of us desire to have the fruits of virtuous deeds, But we do not engage ourselves in virtuous deeds. ………. Because of the desire to acquire a thing somehow or the other, we ignore considerations of Dharma and Adharma. … When a desire is fulfilled another bigger desire comes up in the mind. ….. If the desire is not fulfilled, we get impatient. ……. Unfulfilled desire rebounds on us as anger and prods us into further sins.”
"... Only by banishing desire from our hearts may we remain free from sin. How is it done? We cannot but be performing our works. ... We are unable to efface our desires or to cease from all action. .... It is not necessary that we should altogether stop our actions in our present immature predicament. But, instead of working for our selfish ends, we ought to be engaged in such work as would bring benefits to the world as well as our inward life. We must learn the habit of doing work without any selfish motive. Work done without any desire for the fruits thereof is Punya or virtuous action."
"We must learn to turn these very four means (the body, tongue, mind and money) of evil into instruments of virtue.... we must serve others with our body and circumambulate the Lord and prostrate ourselves before Him ...Use our tongue to add to our stock of virtue by muttering, repeating the names of the Lord...We must cleanse the mind (the abode of Isvara), install the Lord in it and be at peace witth ourselves (through meditation at least five minutes every day)...It is by helping the poor and by spreading the glory of Lord that we will earn merit."
"Papa, sinful action, incites us to do wrong-doing now and goads us into doing evil tomorrow. This is what is called vasana (impressions) that comes of habit. An effort must be made not only to reduce such vasana but also to cultivate the vasana of virtue by doing good deeds. It is bad vasanas that drag us again and again into wrong-doing.”
“It is vasana (impressions), that draws us into sin again and again. But one need not be afraid of this. Those who were like us and greater sinners than ourselves have become great great devotees and Jnanis”
“To eradicate the vasana of sinning, you must develop vasana of doing good to an equal degree. In between, there ought to be neither haste nor anger. (Lord Krishna says as a firm commitment to protect all of us: ‘Surrender unto me, I will release you from all sins.) Therefore, Isvara will come to our help if we have patience, if we have faith in Him and if we are rooted in dharma."
"The goal of all religions is to wean away man-his mind, his speech, his body-from sensual pleasure and lead Him towards Lord... Transitory is the joy derived from sinful action, from sensual pleasure. Bliss is union with Paramatman."
(Excerpts from the book entitled Hindu Dharma: The Universal Way of Life, Voice of the Guru Pujyasri Chandrasekharendra Sarasvati Svami. Bombay: Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, 1995-pp 1-8). (Italics, highlighting and underlining are mine-sgvr.)
Origin of Vedic Religion and Distinctive Features of Sanatana Dharma
In this Chapter, I present Mahaswamy’s explanations on the distinctive features of Hindu Religion. In fact, in the first few paragraphs, he rightly points out this religion is primordial and has no name for it. That is why he calls it Sanatana Dharma. The name “Hindu”, according to him, is given by foreigners. The exclusive features of this ‘religion without a name’ are given in later paragraphs.
The Religion without a Name
"We speak of the 'Hindu religion', but the religion denoted by the term did not in fact have such a name originally..... In none of our ancient Sastras does the term "Hindu religion' occur. The name 'Hindu' was given by foreigners. People from the West came to our land across the Sindhu river which they called 'Indus' or 'Hind' and the land adjacent to it by the name 'India'. The religion of this land came to be called 'Hindu'.... "
"All religions barring our own were established by single individuals. 'Buddhism' means the religion established by Gautama Buddha. Jainism was founded by the Jina called Mahavira. So has Christianity its origin in Jesus Christ. Our religion predating all these had spread all over the world. Since there was no other religion to speak about then it was not necessary to give it a name..."
"If ours is a primeval religion, the question arises as to who established it. All inquiries into this question have failed to yield an answer... Vyasa and Krsna state the Vedas existed before them...... The sages themselves say: "It is true that the mantras became manifest to the world through us. That is why we are mentioned as the "mantra rishis'. But the mantras were not composed by us but revealed to us. When we sat meditating with our minds under control, the mantras were perceived by us in space. Indeed we saw them (hence the term mantra-drishtas). We did not compose them." [The seers are not 'mantra-karthas'.]"
"All sounds originate in space. From these arose creation. According to science, the cosmos was produced from the vibration in space. By virtue of their austerities the sages had the gift of seeing the mantras in space, the mantras that liberate men from this creation. The Vedas are apauruseya (not the work of any human author) and are the very breath of the Paramatman in his form as space. The sages saw them and made a gift of them to the world."
"If we know this truth, we have reason to be proud of the fact that we do not know who founded our religion. In fact we must feel happy that we have the great fortune to be heirs to a religion that is eternal, a religion containing the Vedas which are the very breath of the Paramatman."
Distinctive Features of Sanatana Dharma
"Our religion has a number of unique or distinctive features. One of them is what is called the theory of karma, though this theory is common to religions like Buddhism which are offshoots of Hinduism"
"What is the karma doctrine? For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. There is an ineluctable law of physics governing cause and effect, action and reaction. This law pertaining to physical phenomena our forefathers applied to human life. The cosmos includes not only sentient beings endowed with consciousness but also countless insentient objects. Together they constitute worldly life. The laws, the dharma, proper to the first order must apply to the second also. According to the karma theory, every action of a man has an effect corresponding to it. Based on this belief our religion declares that, if a man commits a sin, he shall pay the penalty for it. Also if his act is a virtuous one, he shall reap the benefits thereof."
"Our religion further asserts that one is born again and again so as to experience the consequences of one's good and bad actions.’Do good.' 'Do not do evil,' such are the exhortations of all religions. But Hinduism (and its offshoots) alone lay stress on the cause-and-effect connection. No religion originating in countries outside India subscribes to the cause-and-effect connection, nor to the reincarnation theory as one of its articles of faith. Indeed religions originating abroad hold beliefs contrary to this theory and strongly oppose the view that man is born again and again in order to exhaust his karma. They believe that a man has only one birth, that when his soul departs on his death it dwells somewhere awaiting the day of judgment. On this day God makes an assessment of his good and bad actions and, on the basis of it, rewards him with eternal paradise or sentences him to eternal damnation. . ."
"Isvra who decides our faith after death on the basis of our karma is infinitely merciful . . . He gives us another birth, another opportunity to reap the fruits of our good and bad actions. The joys of heaven and the torments of hell truly belong to this world itself. The sorrow and happiness that are our lot in our present birth are in proportion to the virtuous and evil deeds of our past birth . . ."
" In his mercy the Lord gives us every time a fresh opportunity to wash away our sins. The guru, the sastras, and the temples are all his gifts to wipe away our inner impurities. The Isvara, in his compassion, places his trust even in a sinner confident that he will raise himself through his own efforts and gives him a fresh opportunity in the form of another birth to advance himself inwardly-is not such a belief better than that he should dismiss a sinner as good-for-nothing and yet reward him with heaven? . . . So long as we believe in such a thing as human endeavour we should think that Isvara's supreme compassion lies in trusting a man to go forward spiritually through his own efforts. It is in this way that the Lord's true grace is manifested . . ."
"There is strong evidence to support the reincarnation theory. A lady from the west came to see me one day and asked me if there is any proof of reincarnation . . . 'Leave aside the question of God consigning a man to eternal hell after his death,' I said to the foreign lady: 'We are not witness to such a phenomenon. But now you have seen with your own eyes how differently the children are born in the hospital that you visited. How would you account for the differences? Why should one child be born rich and another poor? Why should one be healthy and another sickly? And why should one be good-looking and another unpretty? . . . How are we to account for the differences between one being and another if we do not accept the doctrine that our life now is determined by the good and the bad we did in our past births.' . . . "
"Parapsychologists have done considerable research in the subject and their findings are in favor of the theory of rebirth . . . The parapsychologists verified these facts [the fact that some people remember their past lives] and to their amazement found them [the recollections of their past life] to be true. . . "
"The doctrine of the incarnations of the Lord-avataras-is another unique feature of our religion. The Realty (Sadvastu) is one. That It manifests itself as countless beings is one of our cardinal tenants. It follows that it is this one and only Reality that transforms itself again and again into all those beings that are subject to birth and death. Also it is the same Reality that is manifested as Isvara to protect this world of sentient beings and insentient object. Unlike humans He is not subject to the law of karma. It is to live out his karma-to experience the fruits of his actions-that man is born again and again. But in birth after birth, instead of washing away his old karma, he adds more and more to the mud sticking to him."
"If the Lord descends to Earth again and again it is to lift up man and show him the righteous path . . . Isvara is to be known in different states. That the Lord is all-that all is the Lord-is a state that we cannot easily comprehend. Then there is a state mentioned in the "vibhuti" yoga of the Gita according to which the Lord dwells in the highest of each category, in the 'most excellent' of things. To create the heights of excellence in human life he sends messengers to earth in the guise of preceptors (acaryas), men of wisdom and enlightenment (jnanins), yogins and devotees. This is another state in which God is to be known. Not satisfied with the previous states, he assumes yet another state: he descends to earth as an avatara. The word 'avatarana' itself means 'descent'. Isvara is 'paratpara' that is 'higher that the highest', 'beyond what is beyond everything'. Yet he descends to earth by being born in our midst to re-establish dharma . . ."
"Altogether the Vedic dharma that is Hinduism accepts the concept of incarnations of the Lord. Saivas too are one with Vaisnavas in believing in the ten incarnations of Visnu. "
"That the one and only Paramatman who has neither a form nor attributes is manifested as different forms with attributes is another special feature of our religion. We worship idols representing these forms of deities. For this reason others label us polytheists. Their view is utterly wrong. Because we worship the one God, the one Reality, in many different forms it does not mean that we believe in many Gods. It is equally absurd to call us idolaters who hold that the idol we worship is God. Hindus with a proper understanding of their religion do not think that the idol alone is God. The idol is meant for the worshipper to offer one-pointed devotion and he adores it with the conviction that the Lord who is present everywhere is present in it also. We see that practitioners of other religions also have symbols for worship and meditation. So it is wholly unjust to believe that Hindus alone worship idols-to regard them with scorn as idolaters is not right."
"That ours is the only religion that does not proclaim that its followers have an exclusive right to salvation is a matter of pride for us Hindus. Our catholic outlook is revealed in our scriptures which declare that whatever the religious path followed by people they will finally attain the same Paramatman. That is why there is no place for conversion in Hinduism . . ."
"We may not approve of people being forced into a religion or of conversions carried out by temptations placed before them. But we need not for that reason doubt that those who spread their religion in this fashion really believe that their work will bring general well-being. . ."
"The countries are many and they have different climates and grow different crops. Also each part of the world has evolved a different culture. But the Vedas encompassed lands all over this planet from the very beginning. Later other religions emerged in keeping with the changing attitudes of the nations concerned. That is why aspects of the Vedic tradition are in evidence not only in the religions now in force but in what we know of those preceding them. But in India alone has Hinduism survived as a full-fledged living faith."
"It must also be added that this primeval religion has regarded-and still regards-with respect the religions that arose subsequent to it . . . 'Live and let live' has been and continues to be the ideal of our religion. It has given birth to religions like Buddhism and Jainism and they (particularly Buddhism) have been propagated abroad for the Atmic advancement of the people there . . ."
" [Hinduism] has also another important [distinctive] feature-the sociological . . . All religions have their own philosophical and theological systems. Also all of them deal with individual life and conduct and, to a limited extent, with social life. 'Look a-upon your neighbour as your brother.' 'Regard your adversary as your friend.' 'Treat others in the same way as you would like to be treated yourself.' 'Be kind to all creatures.' 'Speak the truth' 'Practice non-violence'. These injunctions and rules of conduct relate to social life up to a point-and only up to a point. To religions other than Hinduism, social life or the structure of society is not a major concern. Hinduism alone has a sturdy sociological foundation, and its special feature, 'varnashrama dharma' , is an expression of it."
"Varna dharma is one and asrama dharma is another (together they make varnasrama dharma). Asrama dharma deals with the conduct of an individual during different stages of his life. In the first stage, as a brahmacarin, he devotes himself to studies in gurukula. In the second stage, as a youth, he takes a wife, settles down in life and begets children. In the third, as he ages further he becomes a forest recluse and, without much attachment to worldly life, engages himself in Vedic karma. In the fourth stage, he forsakes even Vedic works, renounces the world utterly to become a sannyasin and turns his mind towards the Paramatman. These four stages of life or asramas are called brahmacarya, grahasthy, vanaprastha, and sannyasa."
"Varna dharma is an 'arrangement' governing all society. It is very much a target of attack today and is usually spoken of as the division of society into 'jatis'. But 'varna' and 'jati' are in fact different. There are only four varnas but the jatis are numerous . . . Critics of varna dharma brand it as 'a blot on our religion' and as 'a vicious system which divides people into high and low'. But if you look at it impartially you will realize that it is a unique instrument to bring about orderly and harmounious social life."
(Excerpts from the book entitled Hindu Dharma: The Universal Way of Life , Voice of the Guru Pujyasri Chandrasekharendra Sarasvati Svami. Bombay: Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, 1995-pp 27-43) . (Italics, highlighting and underlining are mine-sgvr.)
Origin of Vedic Religion –Sound and Creation
In this chapter, I present Mahaswamy’s further thoughts on the origin of Sanatana Dharma. The whole world, according to him, is created through sound vibrations. In each step of his explanation, there is perfect logic and reasoning. The scientific world which examines all that cannot be explained with its own limited and acquired knowledge dismisses them as abstract or erroneous. The logical explanation Mahaswamy gives to the creation of the Universe by Paramatman through sound and creation cannot be so dismissed. He explains:
"What is sound? According to modern science, it is vibration. 'If you examine the core of an atom you will realize that all matter is one.' This Advaitic conclusion is arrived at according to nuclear science and the concepts of Einstein. All this world is one flood of energy (sakti); everything is an electro-magnetic flow. But how do we account for the manifestation of different objects? It is to be attributed to different types of vibration.
"Where there is vibration there is a sound. Conversely, to produce a sound the vibration corresponding to it must also be created. The scientific concept that the different vibrations of the same energy are the cause of creation is the same as the belief that the world was created with the breath of the Paramatman manifesting itself as the sound of the Vedas ..."
"The breath that passes through our nadis, blood vessels, during respiration produces vibrations and on them depends our state of health. Those who keep their breathing under control through the practice of yoga are healthy to an amazing degree ...The inert body of a man and the awareness that is the vital essence of his life are both dependent on the course of his breathing. They grow or decay according to it. The course of a man's breath keeps his inner vibrations in order ..."
" ... all that we see have arisen from the vibrations in the object called the Parabrahman. At the same time, with all these vibrations, this Object remains still and tranquil inwardly. This stillness not withstanding there are movements that are apparent to our perception. They are not disorderly movements but constitute a system embracing vast heavenly bodies like the sun at the one end and the tiniest of insects on the other or even something as humble as a blade of grass."
"It is this orderliness that goes to make worldly life happy. The Paramatman has created this by bringing all powers of nature within an orderly system. But if you sometimes see flaws in it and the natural forces going against us, it is because he likes to be playful now and then..."
"When the powers of nature are unfavorable to us, is there a way to change their behavior and make them favorable to us? Is there also a means by which our mind could be brought under control when it goes haywire? If everything is caused by vibration, by sound, there must be a way of making the forces of nature favorable to us and of purifying our mind and bringing it under control through this very sound. The Vedas constitute such sound.”
"By controlling our breath through the practice of yoga, it is possible to gain access to the breath of the Paramatman and by this means perform such actions as can uplift our own Self as well as mankind. Here the vibrations of the nadis do not produce the sound that is audible to us. Science tells us that there are sounds outside the range of human hearing in the same way as there is light that does not pass through the lens of the human eye . . ."
"It is possible for humans to earn the power or energy possessed by such an inert object as the radio set... it is tapas, ascetic endeavor, that will give us such energy...they [the sages] could perceive the vibrations in creation, that is the course taken by the breath of the Supreme Godhead. Besides, they also knew them as sound capable of being heard by the human ear in the same manner as electric waves converted into sound waves. It is these sounds that they have passed on to us as the mantras of the Vedas.
"The Vedas are called "Sruti". That which is heard is Sruti. "Srotra" means the "ear". The Vedas have been handed down orally from generation to generation and have not been taught or learned from any written text. That is how they got the name of "Sruti". Why were these scriptures not permitted to be written down? Because, the sound of the Vedas cannot be properly transcribed. There are sounds or phonemes that cannot be accurately represented in any script . . . When the wavelength shifts even minutely on our radio, we receive the broadcast of a different transmitting station . . . So is the case with the intonation of Vedic mantras. There should not be the slightest mistake in the svaras. Just as we receive a different station on our radio when the wavelength is changed, so the result is different when we go wrong in the intonation.
"This is the reason why it is of the utmost importance to learn the Vedas by listening - hence the name "Sruti" . . . Sruti is an apt name for the Vedas since they were made known to the world after they had been first heard by the sages.
"The Vedic seers have the name of 'mantra-drastas' - a 'drasta' is one who sees ... There was no script at the time, neither Devanagari nor Grantha nor Brahmi, the basis of all. But, then, the sound of the Vedas, their svaras, cannot be truly written down in any script. ..."
"When the sages were meditating the mantras of the Vedas appeared to them in a flash in their hearts.... in the inner recess of their minds.
" 'Seeing' or 'looking' does not denote merely what is perceived by the eye. It is a term that covers a variety of perceptions and experiences... The term 'mantra-drasta' also could be taken in a similar manner as referring to what is perceived through experience. It is further believed that the sages were able to hear the vedas with their divine ears..."
"Just as Arjuna was endowed by the Lord with a divine eye, the sages must have been invested with celestial ears to grasp the sound emanating from the Paramatman and pervading the vast space.
"The vibrations of the Vedas serve the purpose not only of creation and the conduct of life. There are indeed Vedic mantras that help us to transcend this life and become one with the Ultimate Truth. ... Some mantras that create vibrations in our nadis accomplish the same noble task of taking us to such a goal [where there are no vibrations, no movements, and where there is utter stillness]. Such are the Upanisadic mahavakyas and Pranava.
"In sum, the Vedas are not anyone's compositions. The sages did not create them, nor where they inscribed by the Paramatman on palm-leaves."
(Excerpts from the book entitled Hindu Dharma: The Universal Way of Life , Voice of the Guru Pujyasri Chandrasekharendra Sarasvati Svami. Bombay: Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, 1995-pp 144-148) . (Italics, highlighting and underlining are mine-sgvr.)
What do Vedas Teach us ?
In this Chapter, I give Mahaswamy’s explanations on what the Vedas convey to us.
In an earlier Chapter (1), we have seen that Religion is the means of realizing (the four purusharthas-worthwhile objectives of life) dharma, artha, kama and moksha and that the ultimate goal is Moksha which means release from body and dwell in our true home, which is the state of Supreme Bliss. The four Vedas, the scriputures of Sanatana Dharma (Hindu Religion as is known now), should naturally tell us the same thing and guide us on the means of achieving moksha.
Vedas deal with several matters concerning life; they tell us what is Dharma and Papa/Punya, how to conduct ourselves in a Society, what are our obligations to the Family and Society, what are the rituals to be performed to purify ourselves (mind and body together), what are the yagnas and sacrifices to be performed, the poojas to be done, the essence of bhakthi, karma and jnana margas, etc. These are means to an end namely, achieving moksha.
Ramana Maharshi talks about self enquiry to find out “who you are” and realize that you and the Brahman are one and the same. This in essence is Moksha. Such a self enquiry through mind control is impossible for most of us. It cannot ordinarily be achieved through our senses. Then, what do we do? It is here Vedas come to our help.
The several injunctions given in the Vedas to suit the requirements of each individual and with different mental faculties are intended to guide the human beings through the path gradually and reach us to the main goal of Moksha. We are led through the known roads to the unknown but everlasting and blissful destination, in as facile a manner as possible.
Let us see what Mahaswamy says on this:
"The Upanisads proclaim that all the Vedas together point to a single Truth (Kathopanisad, 2.15). What is that Truth? 'The Vedas speak in one voice of a Supreme entity revealing itself as the meaning of Omkara.' ... Although the Vedas deal with many matters, all of them together speak of one goal, the One Reality. But the question arises why they concern themselves with different entities also when their purpose is only One Entity.”
"It is through the various entities, through knowledge of a multiplicity of subjects that we know of this One Object. Yoga, meditation, austerities, sacrifices and other rites, ceremonies like marriage, state affairs, social life, poetry: what is the goal of all these? It is the One Reality. And that is the goal of Vedas also. All objects and all entities other than this true Object are subject to change. They are like stories remembered and later forgotten. (In our ignorance) we do not perceive the One Object behind the manifoldness of the world. The Vedas take us to the One Reality through the multifarious objects that we do know.
"To attain this One Reality we need to discipline our mind in various ways. Performing sacrifices, practicing austerities, doing the duties of one's dharma, building gopurams, digging ponds for the public, involving ourselves in social work, Samskaras like marriage, all these (Samskaras) go to purify our consciousness and, finally, to still the mind that is always agitated (cittavrtti-nirodha). The purpose of different works is to help us in our efforts to attain the Brahman ..."
"The goal of the Vedas is to shed light on [this] Atman.The rituals enjoined on us in their first part and the jnana expounded in the second have the same goal - knowing Isvara, the Brahman or the Atman. The beginning of the beginning and the end of the end of scriptures have the same ultimate aim ..."
"The senses are incapable of perceiving the Self. They are aware of only outward objects and they keep chasing them ... But the mind does not easily remain fixed on our goal. So it is only by performing outward functions that we will gain the wisdom and maturity to turn our look inward. We will develop such inner vision only by refusing to be dragged down by the mind and the senses, and for this we must perform Vedic works.
"After learning about, or knowing all other matters, by inquiring into them and by making an assessment of them, we are enabled to grasp that by knowing which we will know everything. That is the reason why the Vedas deal with so many branches of learning, so many types of worship, so many different works, so many arts and so many social duties. By applying the body in various rites we loose consciousness of that very body. By directing our thoughts to various branches of learning, by examining various philosophical systems and by worshipping various deities, the mind and the intellect will in due course be dissolved."
"... If we perform Vedic sacraments and worship and chant mantras for the well being of the world, the desires of the body and the mind will wilt. Eventually, we will develop the maturity and wisdom to gain inner vision. In this way we will obtain release here itself ('ihaiva'). Release from Samskara, from the cycle of birth and death. When we realize that the body and the mind are not 'we' and when we become free from them - as mentioned in the Upanisads - we are liberated from worldly existence.
"The purpose of Vedas is achieving liberation in this world itself. And that is the glory. Other religions promise a man salvation after his departure from another world ... Those who have attained it will not return to this world to tell us about it ... But the Vedas hold out the ideal of liberation here itself, if we renounce all desire and keep meditating on the Self. Moksa then will be within our grasp at once ..."
"... The Vedas refer to Paramatman as 'Tat' which means 'That'. At the conclusion of any rite or work it is customary to say 'Om Tatsat'. It means, 'That is the Truth'... If Vedas proclaim the Paramatman as 'Tat', that is a distant entity ... Actually it s not so. What is far away is also close by. The Vedas proclaim: 'Durat dure antike ca.' (Farther than the farthest, nearer than the nearest)... You look for the God thinking him to be far from you. So long as you are ignorant (that is without jnana) he is indeed far from you. Even if you look for him all over the world you will not find him. He is in truth with you. ... "
"... 'That you are' or 'That thou art' (Tat tvam asi) is a vedic mahakavya. The 'tvam' here does not mean the quality or essential nature of any entity or object. The word has two meanings: 'essential nature' ('beingness') is one meaning; and 'you' or 'thou' is another. The Acarya (here he refers to Adi Sankara-sgvr) has used 'tvam' as a pun in a stanza in his Saundaryalahari. It is a combination of the two words 'tat' and 'tvam' that the word 'tattvam' has come into use. Any truth arrived at the conclusion of an inquiry is 'tattva' - thus denotes the One Truth that is the Paramatman.
"What we call 'I', what we think to be 'I', that indeed is Isvara: or such awareness is Isvara. If you do not possess the light within you to discern this truth you will not be able even to conceive of any entity called the 'Isvara'. The consciousness of 'I' is what we believe to be the distant 'That'. 'That and you are the same, child,' is the ultimate message of the Vedas. ..."
'The mantras have 'bijaksaras' (seed letters or seed syllables). Like a big tree (potentially) present in a tiny seed, these syllables contain immeasurable power. If the bijaksara is muttered a hundred thousand times, with your mind one pointed, you will have its power within your grasp.
"Whatever power there is in the world, whatever intellectual brilliance, whatever skills and talents, all must be present in God in a rudimentary form. The Vedas proclaim, as if with the beat of drums: 'All this has not sprung without a root cause. The power that is in the root or the seed is the same as the power that pervades the entire universe. Where is that seed or root? The Self that keeps seeing all from within, what we call 'idam,' is the root'..."
"...When lighting strikes in flashes, when water cascades, the power is manifested. In the same way you must try to make the supreme truth within you manifest itself in a flash. All Vedic rites, all worship, all works, meditation of the mahavakyas, Vedanta - the purpose of all these is to make the truth unfold itself to you - in you - in a flash.
"Even the family and social life that are dealt with in the Vedas, the royal duties mentioned in them, or poetry, therapeutics or geology or any other sastra are steps leading towards the realization of the Self. At first the union of 'Tat' and 'tvam' (That and you) would be experienced for a few moments like a flash of lighting ..."
"The goal of the Vedas is inward realization of the Brahman here and now. We learn about happenings in the world from the newspapers...The Vedas constitute such a paper. They tell us about things that cannot be known to ordinary new-gatherers and also about things occurring in a place where there is neither telegraphy not any tele-printer. It is through the medium of this newspaper (Vedas) that the sages who possess trans-sensual powers keep us informed about matters that are beyond this world and beyond the comprehension of the average man..."
"To explain further. What is mentioned in the Vedas but can be known by other (mundane) means is not incontrovertible Vedic authority. The purpose of the Vedas is to make known what is not known. They speak about things we know and do not know, but their chief purpose is the latter - what they state about what we do not know ..."
"The non-dualist truth is proclaimed in a number of hymns and in most of the Upanisads, but this is not in keeping with our outward experience. The ultimate Vedic view is that all objects are indeed not separate from one another but are the outward manifestation of the same Self.
“The jnanakanda in which the Upanisads lay emphasis on non-dualism is the concluding part of the Vedas. The karmakanda which speaks of dualism precedes it. So if the Vedas first speak about the dualism that we know and later about the non-dualism that we do not know, it means that the non-dualistic teaching is the supreme purpose of the Vedas..."
"From the non-dualistic standpoint there is no need to counter other systems, viewed on their own proper levels. It is only when these levels are exceeded that the need arises to counter them. That is how our Acarya and other exponents of non-dualism countenanced other systems.”
"By the grace of Isvara, scientific advancement so far has done no injury to things Atmic and indeed modern science takes us increasingly close to Advaita whose truth hitherto could not be known by anything other than the Vedas. In the early centuries of science, it was thought that all objects in the world were different entities, separate from one another. ... Subsequently when the atomic science developed it was realized that all the elements had the same source, the same energy.”
"Those who meditate on the Self and know the truth realize that this power, this Atman, is made up of knowledge, awareness. And it is knowledge (jñana) that enfolds not only inert objects but also the individual self to form the non-dualistic whole. ... “
(Excerpts from the book entitled Hindu Dharma: The Universal Way of Life , Voice of the Guru Pujyasri Chandrasekharendra Sarasvati Svami. Bombay: Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, 1995-pp 237-248) . (Italics, highlighting and underlining are mine-sgvr.)
Having talked about what the Vedas teach us, in this Chapter, I give Mahaswamy’s explanations on Vedic mantras, their effects, and the method of reciting them. These are self explanatory.
“At the time of every creation, the Paramatman also creates authorities or ‘officials’ and invests them with the yogic power necessary for them to function. In the yoga Sastra is taught the truth that one’s ears are not to be differentiated from outward space. When we meditate on this truth, we acquire a celestial ear. It is with this ear and the grace of the Paramatman that the authorities appointed by Him obtain the sound waves that are always present in the outer space. They were the first to know the Vedas and they are the Maharishis (the great seers or sages) of the Mantras”
"Vedic chanting is a mantra yoga. [This yoga is another way of acquiring control over the nadis] ... When we vocalize a syllable, the vital breath is discharged through the space intervening our throat, tongue, lips, the upper and lower parts of the mouth, etc. It is then that the syllable is voiced or the 'aksara-dhvani' produced. Vibrations are created in the nadis located in those parts of the body where the vital breath courses through as a consequence of the aksara-dhvani."
"What are the Vedic mantras like in this context? Chanting them means only voicing syllables as would cause beneficent vibrations of the nadis, beneficent vibrations that would produce such mental states as would lead to well-being in this world and the hereafter and ultimately to liberation. No other type of vibration is caused by the chanting of the mantras."
"What is a mantra? 'Mananat trayate' : that which protects you by being turned over again and again in the mind. By birth, the Brahmin is invested with the duty of chanting mantras again and again and producing such vibrations in the nadis as would bring Atmic well-being not only for himself but for all creatures."
"How are the mantras to be chanted so that we may master them and derive the full benefit from them? ..."
Methods of Chanting
“Our forefathers devised a number of methods to preserve the unwritten Vedas in their original form, to safe guard their tonal and verbal purity. They have laid down rules to make sure that not a syllable was changed in chanting, not a svara was altered. In this way they ensured that the full benefits were derived from intoning the Mantras. They fixed the time taken to enunciate each syllable of a word and called this unit of time or time interval ‘matra’. How we must regulate our breathing to produce the desired vibration in a particular part of the body so that the sound of the syllable enunciated is produced in its pure form: even this determined in vedanga called ‘siksha’. The similarities and the differences between the svaras of music and of the Vedas are dealt with. …… With all this the right way is shown for the intonation of Vedhic Mantras”
“A remarkable method was devised to make sure that the words and syllables are not altered. According to this the words of a Mantra are strung together in different pattern like ‘vakya’, ‘pada’, ;krama’, ‘jata’, ‘mala’, ‘sikha’, ‘rekha’, ‘dhvaja’, ‘danda’, ‘ratha’, ‘ghana’ etc.” (Then Mahaswamy goes on to explain the different patterns. Those who want details may refer to the original text in English-sgvr)
"The Vedas must be recited only in accordance with the tones appropriate to them...To derive the full benefit from the mantras the right matras must be maintained in the chanting...there must be certain poise about the man who chants the Vedas. The nadi vibrations must be such as are naturally produced in the course of the intonation. There must be no other vibrations. If the head is shaken as in a music recital the nadi vibrations will be affected...As I have said so often the Vedas must be taught and learned without the help of any written text ..."
"The Vedic mantras must be intoned full-throated, sonorously and their sound must pervade space to the maximum extent possible. The sound of the mantras does good to the man chanting them as well as to the listener by producing vibrations in the nadis of both. As it fills the air, it will be beneficent both in this world and the next. This is the reason why the Vedas must be chanted with vigor, so that their sound reaches the utmost limits possible."
“ …… This concern that finds expression in the Vedas is not shared by any other religion. …… the Vedas pray for the good of all creatures including bipeds, quadrupeds, etc. Even grass, shrubs, trees, mountains and the rivers are not excluded from their benign purview. The happy state of all these sentient creatures and inert objects is brought about by the special quality of the sound of the Vedas.”
“The remarkable thing about Vedas is that they are of immeasurable value for their sound as for their verbal content. While the sound has creative power, the words are notable for the exalted character of the meaning they convey. …… The Vedas serve two fold purposes: while they have the mantric power to do immense good to each one of us and to the world, they also contain the teachings embodying great metaphysical truths.”
“The tenets of these scriptures have aroused the wonder of the people of the other lands, of other faiths. They are moved by the poetic beauty of the hymns, the subtle manner in which principles of social life are dealt with in them, the metaphysical truths embedded in them, and the moral instruction as well as scientific truths contained in them.”
Gayatri which is Maha Mantra among the Mantras is considered the essence of the three Vedas. Generally,- the Gayatri imparted to a child at Brahmopadesa is called “Tripadha-Gaythri’-it is so called because it has three padhas or three feet. Each feet encompasses the essential spirit of one Veda (all except Atharva Veda which has its own Gayatri)
(Excerpts from the book entitled Hindu Dharma: The Universal Way of Life , Voice of the Guru Pujyasri Chandrasekharendra Sarasvati Svami. Bombay: Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, 1995-pp 163-166) . (Italics, highlighting and underlining are mine-sgvr.)
Acharas and Rituals
One question which has been raised for a long time, say for thousands of years, is on the need and justification for rituals (and Achara Anushtanams) in the Hindu religion. Several reformers including Arya Samaj have tried to reduce their number or attempted to simplify them. None of them, however, had succeeded completely to convince a large mass of people who still follow the rituals enjoined in the Sasthras. The Mahaswami of Kanchi mutt did raise this question in his lectures and gave explanations on the meaning and need for following Sasthras strictly without diluting them. In the following paragraphs, I have tried to summarize his views presented in “Deyvathin Kural”, a publication containing his lectures.
Follow the Rules of Conduct
“Wherever one is born and in whichever religion or a branch of it, he must consider the rules of conduct followed by the ancestors of that religion as his own and follow the same. ……….. “Acharam” is what our ancestors have been doing for a long time as support to good conduct. ……. Each one has to follow the path shown by the forefathers; if one does not follow this rule, that is, if he does not follow his forefathers and if he takes a different path, different life styles, symbols etc., he becomes a degenerate. ……….”
“Samayacharam means observing the religious discipline. You follow the tradition which your family has been following from out of the traditions of Hindu religion. If you are born in a particular family, in a particular place, in a particular country, it is not something accidental. It is Iswara who has ensured that you are born in a particular family, He has also considered the Karmas of your previous births and planned your present birth in such a way that even while experiencing the previous Karma, if you follow the Dharma, it is possible for you to evolve spiritually. Therefore follow the religious customs of that family”
The Why of it
“It is only “achara” that has the weight of experience that has come through generations. It is only when we respect tradition and follow it, discipline develops by which, the mind, the sense organs and our activities can be controlled. This only leads to purity of mind which is the first gate to enter moksha. If an established tradition is not respected and accepted and one goes on asking, “why this and how that”, it will only end in such questioning, but it is not possible to establish a new weighty discipline in the place of existing one.”
Consequences of Reforms
“The moment one thinks of interfering with established sashtras and acharas and reforming them to a lesser or greater extent, the humility to subject oneself to a discipline becomes a causality. The moment a reformist leader changes something saying that it ‘cripples individual freedom’, those around him and his followers get the thought that they should break all control including the new discipline imposed by the leader and be totally free.”
“It is for this reason that Bhagawan (Lord Krishna) has emphatically said (in the Gita) that even if one or two practices in the old achara are not alright, one should not interfere with it and create confusion in the minds of people majority of whom are ignorant. The knowledgeable leaders of the society have to function only according to the Sasthras.”
“Bhagwan (further) says that they must follow the sastras and be role models even if they feel that some of the Karmas are not necessary for them. He tells the leaders that if they act different from the customs and acharas of the world thinking that they are beyond that state, they will set a wrong example to the people. Ordinary people would have given up whatever they are holding on too and fall to a lower level. (Unlike the leaders), they will not have the power or samskara (accomplishment) to hook themselves on to something higher. Such people will lose their discipline, their mental balance and become confused. (Sloka 3.2)”
“Although people talk about Gita these days all the time, slokas such as these are overlooked. In the same way in another place He says as a firm conclusion. “You have no right of your own to decide what can be done and what cannot be done. Look into the Sasthras. That is the authority. Do what is permitted there, Do not do what is not permitted there”. (Sloka 16.2)”
Limitations of Reformists
“It can be accepted that to some extent many of these reformist leaders are educated and knowledgeable and have genuine interest in guiding people on the right path. But the serious mistake they commit is they think that what appears to their intellect as right is only right and everything else is wrong. Although they are pure and knowledgeable, they lack the respectful realization that our rishis who had codified the Dharma sastras on the basis of vedhas and Manu and other great men were greater than them in purity and knowledge.”
“Beyond the realm of practicality and outside its control, there is the divine power. It does not show the result immediately in a manner it can be recognized. Instead of the results of our actions and thoughts being seen here immediately, it may be seen at other time, in some other birth or in some other world too-that is how the divine power conducts its sport. It is the result not seen immediately which is called invisible result (Adrishta). Most reformers do not believe in this. Their education, outlook etc. are on the lines of westerners….. Since they have not understood the invisible results that accrue in other worlds, they ridicule the yagnas for devatas, tharpanam and ceremonies to pithrus as mere superstition. They forget that there is Iswara who dispenses the fruits in other births or in other world.”
“It is the truth of ideology and the powers of the rishis that have protected the vaidhika religious disciplines over the eons. …… Those who talk outwardly against religious disciplines (acharam) do have within them some fear. In their personal matters they do go by several superstitions! ……… When deposit has to be paid for election, however rationalist the person may be he looks to the auspicious day, star etc, I understand.”
Answers to Reformers’ Questions on Rituals
“Reformers ask ‘Is it not enough if the mind is pure? Why rituals? Why all these formalities?’
If the mind is left alone, it will of course go the wrong way uncontrolled. It is only for one in several thousand that the mind will be under control even when he is not engaged in activities. For others, this is possible only if a work is assigned to them and their mind turned towards God or public service. It is only with this in view that acharam and anushtanas have been prescribed. It is not only when the mind is left alone; even if it is involved in japa (silent repetition of Lord’s name) or sthothras, after some time it gets detached from this. Therefore, following the principle of mind-speech-body combination, the rituals have been prescribed by connecting the mind with physical work also. Homam being performed while mantras are recited, reciting Sahasranamam and doing archanas have been prescribed.”
“In spiritual evolution, as we go beyond a stage, even speech and action will be hindrance to concentrated dhyana, At that stage of activity, sthothrams, mantram and all else will stop. These get eliminated on their own. …………… But in the beginning itself if it is said that all these are not necessary and purity of mind alone is enough, it will be like a frog wanting to have lungs right in the beginning when it is in water and giving up whatever part it has to draw oxygen from water . It will only die.” (Lungs develop in a frog only after it grows; till then it draws oxygen from water like a fish).
From outward to Inward
“Only through outward symbols, external activities and outward differences, we can attain the internal state of no symbol, no activity and no difference. In the beginning itself, one is told to do dhyana with the mind without any activity, the mind will wander as it likes. Then, either dhyana has to be discontinued or we will be tired and will fall asleep.”
“Purity of mind cannot be achieved without discipline. There is no external discipline without rules, formalities, external activities and differences relating to such activities. ……… Even if nothing else is known, there should be fear of a Easwara and life should be conducted on the path of dharma and fairness. People, who had followed the path of their forefathers, conducted themselves properly and with humility. The reforms have destroyed these and the ordinary people who on their own were humble have become haughty…… One who says “No need for rituals, no need for Sasthras, only mind is enough” is not doing anything good to others”.
Swarga Vasam before Moksha
“People generally are karmasangi, that is they remain bound by work only. There is no use talking to them about the ideal state, the soul, and jnana etc. Sashthras have prescribed for them several duties and also indicated the fruits for each whether they materialize immediately or remain invisible and fructify later. Such fruits (benefits) are indicated for yagas and yagnas prescribed in the Vedas-it will rain there and there will be plenty of crops and grains; will bestow a brilliant intellect and the ability to address and assembly; finally Swarga will materialize. For performing the prescribed karmas what has been mentioned as the fruit is only ‘swarga vasam’ in which there is enjoyment through the sense organs and not Moksha in which identity of the jiva and the Brahma is experienced. The reason is that if, in the beginning itself Moksha is mentioned, no one will go after that. Therefore karmas have been prescribed for securing the enjoyments of swarga. It has been designed this way so that by doing such karmas, and by the discipline that results from it, he will attain purity of mind even without his knowledge or desiring or seeking and he can be tuned to the ultimate and the permanent. Later, yagnas as part of religion become less. Yet prescribing other disciplines (anushtana) for worldly benefits continues. “Go to Rameswaram; go round the papal tree and you will have progeny; do Surya Namaskaram, eye troubles will get cured, repeat kanakadhara stothram, you will get money”-Sasthras have prescribed several karmas like these for gaining worldly benefits, Most people do these in expectation of fruits.”
Further Explanations and Gita’s Prescription
“These are the people to whom Bhagwan refers as ‘Saktah karmanyavidhvamso’. If you lecture to such people ‘do not go after such petty fruits, think of the highest goal of experiencing Easwara, it will not click. Because they lack Samskaras, they will have to be raised gradually from where they are, keeping in view the state of their mind. In order to make them suitable, the Sasthras have prescribed for them such activities which are not related to spirituality. They are doing these only for fruits. By such activities not only do they get the desired fruits, but also achieve the bigger fruit of gradual purification of the mind which they do not have in view………”
“When an activity prescribed in religion is done only for improvement in worldly life and not for spiritual goal, it has been so designed that there is thought of God when doing it with the help of Iswara sakthi. Thus, by Bhakthi to the Lord inherent in this, faith, and the side effects of humility, discipline etc, little by little, the mind gets purified without our seeking it. Only when we go further and further in this, we attain maturity to realize that religious anushtanams have to be done not for petty fruits but for the sake of (reaching) the Lord Himself.”
“In Bhagwat Gita, Lord Krishna says clearly that a Jnani must act in the manner like ajnani!; i.e., the same karmas which the ajnanis perform because of their attachment to the fruits of their desire, should be done by the vidhwan but without attachment. Though a jnani should have no desire, still Bhagwan says that it is for raising the people that jnani also has to perform the Sasthra karmas like them and demonstrate to them. It is precisely to taking them to his own high state he has to come down the ladder, give them a helping hand, hold their hands tight (sam-graham) and raise them up…. It is only after these that he has to give them his jnana and bhakthi.”
“Bhagwan commands that one who is at the top level-who is called sreshta- has to perform the sasthra karmas without desire or attachment in order to show it to the ordinary people and make them do the karmas, subjecting themselves to sasthra achara, at least for the sake of fruits.”
Source: These quotations are taken from pages 268-318 of the book entitled “Voice of God” -Vol.3 published by Sri Kanchi Mahaswami Peetarohana Shatabdi Mahotsava Trust, Mumbai-22.- This book is a translation in English of the book in Tamil entitled “Deyvathin Kural” referred to earlier. (Italics, highlighting and underlining are mine.)