Down Ribbon: Celestial Truths Part-II
(S.G.V. Ramanan, Bengaluru)






Part II – Contents of this part :


Ch.8 – The Four Vedas

Ch.9 - The Six Angas of Veda : 1

Ch.10 - The Six Angas of Veda : 2

Ch.11 - The Four Upangas-1.Mimamsa & Nyaya;

Ch.12 – The 4 Upangas-2.Puranas;

Ch.13 – The 4 Upangas-3.Dharmasastras (a)

Ch.14 – The 4 Upangas-4 Dharmasastras (b) Forty Samskaras;

Ch.15 - The Four Upavedas-Vidyasthanam;

Ch.16 - Samanya Dharma - Dharmas Common to All-1

Ch.17 – Samanya Dharma – Dharmas Common to All 2

Ch.18 - From Outward Karma to Inward Meditation


A 4-Part series.


(Access other 3 parts by clicking the link below)


Part 1

Part 3

Part 4











Chapter 8

Fourteen Abodes of Knowledge – The Four Vedas

Ignorance of our Religion

Paramacharya of Kanchi Mutt laments lack of knowledge of our scriptures. Here is what he says:

“Many Hindus are ignorant of the scripture that is the very source of their religion-they do not know even its name. .......... Though we are heirs to a great civilization, a civilization that is universally admired, we are ignorant of its springs. ....... We are proud of living as foreigners in our own land, but the foreigners themselves think poorly of us for being so. ..... Our Athma vidya is extolled by people all over the world. Foreigners come to India in search of our sastras and translate them into their own languages. If we want to be respected by the world, we must gain more and more knowledge in such sastras as have won the admiration of the world. … There are so many books on our religion but we seem to have no need for any of them. All our reading consists of foreign literature.”

“The reason for this sorry state of affairs is that we are not as anxious or eager to know about our culture, as we are to find out how much it would fetch us in terms of money. Indeed the true purpose of earning money and other activities of ours must be to know this culture fully, live in accordance with its spirit and experience a sense of fulfillment. …. Religion itself is a purpose of all our actions-it is its own purpose. There need be no purpose for religion, although the performance of religious rites brings us great benefits such as tranquility of mind, affection for all and finally liberation of all our actions.”

(It is in this context, I would like to share the explanations and description given by the Mahaswamy on the Hindu Scripture. This will be done in stages beginning with the listing of the abodes of knowledge and explanations on the four Vedas. There is plenty of literature available on the subject. I will confine myself only to Mahaswamy’s lectures. These are not exhaustive and therefore I do not claim thoroughness on the scripture.-sgvr)

The Fourteen Abodes of knowledge

Dharma’ which is the term used by the sastras for our religion denotes all the moral and religious principles that constitute the means to obtain the fullness of life. We have many a work that teaches us dharma, but we remain ignorant of them. Since they deal with matters that are the very basis of of Dharma, they are called Dharma-Pramanas.  Pramana is that which establishes the truth or rightness of a thing (or belief). We have fourteen basic Sastras that pertain to Dharma, that is canonical texts that deal with what has come to be known as Hinduism and what has been handed down to us from the time of the primordial Vedhas.  These treatises tell is bout the doctrines and practices of dharma.”

“The fourteen abodes of knowledge are: the four Vedas; the six Angas or limbs of Vedas, Mimamsa, Nyaya, the Puranas and the Dharmasasthra ... All religious knowledge is encompassed by these branches of learning. There are yet other four more Vidyas. ... They are - Ayurveda, Arthasastra, Dhanurveda and Ghandarva Veda. ... These four qualify only to be Vidyasthanas (abodes of knowledge). The first fourteen are both dharmasthanas and Vidyasthanas (abodes of dharma as well as abodes of knowledge. The dharmastanas and vidyasthanas are together commonly known as the sastras. The word sastra means an order or commandment. ... While all the fourteen sastras are basic and authoritative texts, the Vedas are their crown (prime scripture). Of the fourteen branches of learning the first four (the four Vedas) form the basis for the subsequent ten. Together they constitute the complete corpus of sastras on which our religion is founded.”

The Four Vedas.

The four Vedas are: Rig Veda, Yajur Veda, Sama Veda and Atharva Veda. Through his published lectures, we get to know the Mahaswamy’s explanations on them, extracts of which are given below:-sgvr

  ‘Anantah vai Vedah’, the Vedas are infinite, The seers have, however, revealed to us a small part which is sufficient for our welfare in this world and the other. …. In each of these four Vedas there are different ‘patas, ‘patabedhas’ or ‘patantharas.  The same musical is sung in different ‘panis’. Just as the same musical composition or raga is expounded in different styles by different musicians, there are more sukthas in some patas than in others.”

“Each ‘patantharas’ or each version is called a sakha (a branch). The various sakhas are branches of the Vedic tree. The branches big or small belong to one or another of the four Vedas.”

All Vedas are eternal and came to the mankind with creation itself. … It is meaningless to attempt to fix their date.”

“Each Sakha consists of the Samhita, Brahmana and Aranyaka. When we speak of Veda adhyayana (the study of Vedas), we normally have in mind the Samhita Part only, which is indeed the very basis of a saka, its life breath.The word means to compile in an orderly manner.  Samhita puts together the entire import of a veda in a systematic manner and gives in the of mantras.”

Rig Veda

“The Rig Veda Samhita is all in the form of poetry. ….. It is made up entirely of hymns in praise of various deities. Each rik is a mantra and a number of riks in praise of a deity constitute a sukta. The Rig Veda, that is Samhita, has 10,170 riks and 1,028 suktas. It is divided into ten mandalas or eight astakas. It begins with sukta to Agni and concludes with a sukta to the same deity. …………… The concluding sukta of Rig veda contains a hymn that should be regarded as having a higher significance than the national anthem of any country; it is a prayer of amity among all nations, a true international anthem. ‘May man kind be of one mind’ it goes. ‘May it have a common goal. May all the hearts be united in love. And with the mind and the goal being one, may all of us live in happiness.”

The glory of the Rig Veda is that it is replete with hymns to all deities. Scholars are of the opinion, it contains (besides) teachings for our life. The wedding rites are based on that part of this Veda pertains to the marriage of the daughter of the Sun God. ….. The hymns to Usas, the Goddess of dawn, and similar mantras are considered to be of high poetic beauty by men of aesthetic discernment. ”

“Since Rig Veda is placed first among the four Vedas, it must naturally have an exalted position. It is the matrix of the works (karma) of the Yajur Veda and the songs of Sama Veda.”

Yajur Veda

“ ‘Yajus’ is deived from the word ‘yaj’ meaning ‘to worship’. ‘Yajna’ is also from the same root. Just as ‘rik’ means a hymn, ‘yajus’ means the worship associated with sacrifices. The chief purpose of the Yajur Veda is the practical application of the Rig Vedic hymns in the religious work called yajna or sacrifice. The Yajur Veda describes in prose the actual conduct of the rites. If the Rig Veda serves the purpose of adoring deities verbally, the Yajur Veda serves the same purpose through rites.”

“The Yajur Veda is different from the other Vedas in that it may said to be divided into two Vedas which are considerably different from one another; the Shukla Yajur Veda (white) and the Krishna Yajur Veda(black).  … The former was taught by Sun God to Yagnavalkya, while the latter taught by Viasampayana acquired the appellation of Krishna (black). (I am leaving out here details of the description of these twobranches of Yajur Veda-sgvr)”

The importance of the Yajur Veda is that it systematizes the Karma yoga, the path of works. The Thaithiriya Samhita of the Krishna Yajur Veda deals with sacrifices…… Besides it has a number of mantras in the form of hymns of a high order not found in the Rig Veda. For non-dualist (Advaitist), the Yajur Veda is something special. Another distinction of the Yajur Veda is that of the ten Upanishads, the first and last are from it-the Isavasyopanishad and the Brahadaranyaka Upanishad.”

“Among the followers of the four Vedas, Yajur Vedins predominate. The majority of the North (Brahmins) belong to the Shukla Yajur Veda ,  while most people on the south belong to the Krishna Yajur Veda.”


Sama Veda

“ ‘Sama’ means that which brings equipoise or tranquility and happiness to the mind. …. The Sama Veda enables us to befriend the divine forces, even the Paramathman. How do we make a person happy?: By praising him. If the panegyric (eulogy) is set to music and sung, it would be doubly pleasing. …………. Our music, based on the seven notes (sapaswara), has its origin in Sama Veda. All deities are pleased with Sama Gana. We become recipients of their grace not only through offerings made in the sacrificial fire, but through the intoning of the samans. .. Sama Gana is particularly important to soma sacrifices in which the essence of the soma plant is offered as oblation.”

Though the Samans are Rig Vedic mantras, they are specially capable of pleasing the deities and creating spiritual elevation because they are intoned musically. This is what gives distinction to Sama Veda. Sri Krishna Paramathma says in the Geeta: ‘Of Vedas, I am Sama Veda’.  Amba has the name ‘Sama Gana Priya’. Siva is worshiped thus: ‘Samapriyaya Namaha’.”

Atharva Veda

‘Atharvan’ means a purohita, a preist. That which was revealed by the seer ‘Atharva’ is the ‘Atharva Veda’. In contains Mantras with which one wards off misfortunes and disasters and brings about the destruction of one’s enemies. The Atharva Veda’ is a mixture of prose and poetry. The Mantras of other Vedas also serve the same purpose as those of Atharva Veda. But what is special about the latter is that it has reference to deities not mentioned in others and has mantras addressed to fierce spirits. What has come to be known as ‘Mantrikam’ (magical rites) has its source in this Veda.”

But it is to be noted that the Atharva Veda also contains mantras that speak of lofty truths. It has Prithvi-sukta,  the hymn to the earth, which glorifies this planet which has in it all the wonders of the creation. The Atharva Veda is noteworthy for the fact that Brahma , the supervisor of sacrifices, is its representative. This Veda is rarely chanted in the north and is not heard of at all in the south (except probably Kerala-sgvr).”

“The Atharva Veda has a separate Gayatri (Maha mantra among mantras) and if people belonging to other Vedas want to learn this Veda, they have to go through a second Upanayana to receive instruction in it.”

(Excerpts from the book entitled “Voice of God”-Vol 2, published by Sri Kanchi Mahaswamy Peetarohana Shatabdi Mahotsava Trust, Mumbai-2006 –pp-157-168 & pp 239-246) . (Italics, highlighting and underlining are mine-sgvr.)

Table of Contents



Chapter 9

Fourteen Abodes of Knowledge

Six Angas of Veda : 1

Having given an idea of the four Vedas, let us see what the other ten abodes of knowledge are. In this Chapter and the next, I begin with the six Angas (limbs) of Veda called Shadanga, namely, Siksha (Phonetics-Nose), Vyakarna (Grammar-Mouth), Nirukta (Lexicon, etimology- Ear), Kalpa (Manual of rituals-Hand), Chandas (Prosody-Foot), and Jyotisha (Astronomy, Astrology-Eyes)..

Throughout these Shadangas, the four Vedas have been symbolically represented as human being called “Veda Purusha” and each one of this Upa-vedas is said to represent one part of the body, starting with nose.

The beauty of this celestial scripture is that it is a perfect piece of literature. As pointed out by the Mahaswamy, Rishis are not its authors. It is Paramathaman who gave us the Vedas; He did not stop there. To make us recite and get full benefits from them,  He gives you along with Vedas,  these six ‘angas’, and,  through them, the phonetics of a mantra, the grammar of poetry and prose, the dictionary of words contained in the Vedas, details of rituals and the astronomy and astrology of heavenly bodies including the mathematics. He does not leave anything in doubt for a perfect living in the world.

A Brahmin is expected to be acquainted with all these Vedangas. I shall now quote the description of these Angas as told to us by the Mahaswamy. The reason for each sastra being identified with a part of the body will become clear as we deal with the Angas individually

Siksa – The Nose

As nose is one of the organs of breathing, Siksa, serves as the nose of Veda Purusha and is the life breath of the Vedic mantras. In an earlier Chapter on Mantra yoga, we have seen that “chanting the mantras  means only voicing syllables as would cause beneficent vibrations of the nadis, beneficent vibrations that would produce such mental state as would lead to well-being in this world and the hereafter and ultimately to liberation.”  In this context, phonetics gains importance.  Here Mahaswamy says:

“Enunciation of the Mantras  is most important to the Vedas, What do we do about it? Siksa is the science that deals with the character of Vedic syllables; it determines their true nature. The science of human speech is called phonetics and it is more important to the Vedic language than to any other tongue. The reason is that if there is a slight change in how you vocalize a syllable, the efficiency of the Mantra will be affected. (The result sometimes will be contrary to what is intended).”

“It is because of the importance of Vedic phonetics that Siksa has been placed first among the six Angas.  ……… A mantra yields the desired fruit if each syllable is vocalized with clarity and tonal accuracy. The phonetic and tonal exactitude of a mantra is even more important than its meaning. In other words, even though the meaning is not understood, if the tonal form takes shape correctly, the mantra will bring the desired benefit. So, the life breath of the Vedas, which are a collection of mantras, is their sound [the 'sound form']."

"… The potency of a mantra is in its sound. Certain sounds have certain powers associated with them. It is sometimes asked: Why should the Sraddha mantras be in Sanskrit? May they not be in English or Tamil? Those who raise these questions do not realize that it is the sound that matters here, not the language as such.”

"…It (Siksa) teaches us how the syllables are to be produced accurately and describes in the minutest detail how the passage of the breath coming from the pit of the stomach is to be controlled. Further it tells us on which parts of the body the breath must impinge and how it must be discharged from the mouth. In a sense, air going into our body in different ways is a manifestation of the yogic science: it is because of the vibrations caused in our nadis as a result of the passage of our breath that our emotions and powers take shape. … That is why those who have mastered the mantras have the same powers as those who have achieved yogic perfection by controlling their breath. The one is mantra yoga, the other is Rajayoga. …"

Siksa explains how each syllable of a mantra is to be produced by the human voice, what its tone should be like. It lays down the duration or mathra for each syllable. ….. It also describes how words that are joined together (according to the rules of ‘sandhi’) are to be enunciated without breaking them. It explains in very great detail how the sounds of the various syllables are to be produced. ….. It is all scientific and at the same time part of Mantra Yoga and Sabda Yoga.”

 "The Vedic syllables must be pronounced with clarity. The character of their sound should not be distorted a bit. But no force must be used in vocalizing the syllables. There should be no damage done – no erosion of the sound – and no violence should be suggested in the pronunciation. ('as the tigress carries the cubs', says the saint - R.)

(He then goes on explaining the ability of the different languages of India and other parts of the world to carry the correct intonation or enunciation of the mantras and concludes as follows: -Ramanan).

"A special feature of our languages is that each syllable of every word is pronounced distinctly. … In the languages of many other countries there is no accord between spelling and pronunciation. … Sanskrit, more than any other language, exemplifies the principles of phonetic spelling. (Even) among Indian languages themselves, Sanskrit is the best in the matter of spelling and pronunciation. By saying this, I do not mean that the languages of other countries are inferior to ours. At the same time, so far as our own country is concerned, I did not wish to downgrade other tongues in comparison with Sanskrit. I merely mentioned some facts to underline the point that Sanskrit fully represents the Supreme Being manifested as the Sabda-brahman.The 50 letters of the Sanskrit alphabet are derived from the Vedic sounds. If you add 'jna' to them you will have 51. These letters are called 'matruka'. ('matr' or ‘matha’means Amba, the World Mother. The 51 letters make up her form.) If the cosmos is the creation of this Supreme Goddess and, if it is also remembered that creation was accomplished with sound, Amba must be the incarnation of the 51 letters. …The Sakta Tantras declare that the 51 letters (in Sanskrit) are the limbs of Amba (Parasakthi) and correlate the letters with different parts of her sacred body. The 51 Sakthi Pitas (the seat of Supreme Goddess) are associated with one or another of these letters. If Siksa is particularly esteemed as the breathing organ of the Veda Purusha, we must also remember that it is made more glorious by the fact it sheds light on the 51 letters which personify Amba. "

…pp 369-408  ibid

Vyakarna – The Mouth

"Vyakarna or grammar is the 'mukha' of the Vedapurusa, his mouth. … The most widely used and important [work on Sanskrit grammar] is the one by the great sage Panini. Patanjali has written a bhasya or commentary on Panini sutras…"

" The prime source of grammar is constituted by the Mahesvara-sutras [in the form of fourteen sounds recited by at the time of Upakarma ceremony] emanating from the drum of Nataraja .They are the concluding strokes Siva made on his drum as He stopped dancing, stopped whirling round and round. Since Paramesvara was the cause of the sabda-sastras (all sciences relating to sound, speech), 'grammar pavilions' have been built in Siva temples, but not in Vishnu shrines.”

“A stanza in Sahitya-Ratnakara goes on to say: 'With the movement of your (Lord Nataraja) hand, the sutras of grammar were created and with the movement of your feet its commentary has been produced.' … In this way, Siva is the prime source of grammar. That is why there are mandapas in his temples where Vyakarna is to be taught."

" In the Vedic view, everything is connected with Lord. There is no question of dividing the subjects into 'religious' and 'non-religious'. Even the science of medicine, Ayurveda, which pertains to physical well being, is ultimately meant for Atmic uplift – for that matter, [even] military science (Dhanurveda). That is why they were made part of traditional lore; so too political economy which is also Atma-sastra. All subjects, all works, that teach a man to bring order, refinement and purity in every aspect of his life and help him thus to take the path to liberation are regarded as religious in character."

"Sound is the highest of the perceived forms of the Paramatman and language is obviously connected with it. It is the concern of Siksa and Vyakarnam to refine and clarify it to make it a means for the well being of our Self. Grammar is associated with the Sabdabrahman. Worship of the Nadabrahman, which is the goal of music, is a branch of this. If sounds are well discerned and employed in speech they will serve not only the purpose of communication but also of cleaning us inwardly. The science of language is helpful here."

…pp 411-428 ibid

Chandas – the Foot

"The Rig Veda and the Sama Veda are entirely in poetical form. The Yajurveda consists of both prose and poetry. It is because poetry forms their major part that the Vedas are called Chandas” 

Poetry has its measurement expressed in 'feet' and number of syllables. The Sastra that deals with such measurement is 'Chandas' and the text on which it is chiefly based is the Chanda-sutras by Pringala.All Vedic mantras in verse are Chandas. Non-Vedic poetry is in the form of 'slokas'.  There are rules governing the number of feet in each stanza, and the number of syllables in each foot….. There are stanzas in which each foot is determined by the number of syllables, no matter whether they are short or long. Other metres are based on matras."

(The saint thereafter goes on explaining the rules of poetry, how poetry was born etc., and concludes as follows: -Ramanan)

"Chandas help us to find out whether a Mantra or Sukta that is being taught or chanted has come down to us in its true form. It is the means by which we ensure that the vedic mantra is preserved in its original form, it being impossible to add one letter to it or take away another. Apart from Mantras, which appeared on their own, Chanda is of help in giving shape to poetic thought and imagination. "

“When we commence to chant a mantra, we must meditate on its adhi devata, or presiding deity, and feel his presence in our hearts. This is the reason why we touch our hearts as we mention the name of the deity. …….The Vedic Mantras are supported by Chandas.”

… pp 431-441 ibid

Nirukta – The Ear

"Nirukta serves the purpose of a Vedic dictionary or ‘kosa’ Nirukta, which deals with the origin of words, their roots, that is, with etymology, is the ear of Veda Purusha. It explains the meaning of rare words in the Vedas and how or why they are used in a particular context. Many have contributed to Nirukta, the work of Yaksa being the most important. …  Since Nirukta finds the meaning of words by going to the root of each, it is called the ear Veda Purusha; it is the ear of 'Sruti' which itself is heard by the ear."

…pp 445-446 ibid

PS: The other two sadangas follow in the next Chapter. -sgvr

(Excerpts from the book entitled “Voice of God”-Vol 2, published by Sri Knachi Mahaswamy Peetarohana Shatabdi Mahotsava Trust, Mumbai-2006 –pp-363 -541) . (Italics, highlighting and underlining are mine-sgvr.)

Table of Contents




Chapter 10

Fourteen Abodes of Knowledge

Six Angas of Veda : 2 (cont d... from previous chapter)

This Chapter is in continuation of the earlier one and describes the remaining two Shadangas. For most of us, these two should be more interesting to read than the previous one. The ‘Anga’ ‘Jyotisa’ is full of information on our rich ancient knowledge. Kalpa deals with all the rites that are to be performed with minute details.

Jyotisa – The Eye

"Jyotisa, is the science of celestial bodies and the eye of the Veda Purusha.  Just as our eyes help us to know objects that are in distance in space (that is just as we see distant objects with our eyes), Jyotisa sastra help us to find out the position of the heavenly bodies, that are distant in time (their configuration many years ago in the past or many years hence in the future). Just as we can know near objects, even if we are blind, by feeling them with our hands, we can learn about the position of heavenly bodies near in time even without the help of astronomy. … Again, even if we are able to see a planet with our naked eye, we will need the help of astrology to find out its effects on our life, how its position in the heavens will influence our destiny. This is the reason why Jyotisa is called the eye of Veda Purusha.

"Vedic rituals are performed according to the position of various planets [and the sun and the moon]. There are rules to determine this. The right day and hour [muhurta] for a function is fixed according to the position of celestial bodies. Here again, Jyotisa performs the function of the eye."

"Astronomy examines the position of the planets and other heavenly bodies. It does not concern itself with how they affect the life of the world or the individual. It is not its function to find out how the celestial bodies are beneficial to us or how they may be made favourable to us. Such functions belong to astrology. Jyotisa includes both astronomy and astrology."

"Telling us about the results of performing a ritual at a given time, keeping in mind the position of planets, the sun and the moon and the nakshatras (asterisms), comes under the purview of astrology. The hours favourable to the performance of Vedic rites are determined according to calculations based on the movement of planets. All this entails mathematical work."

“Jyotisa consists of three 'Skandhas' or sections. Sages like Garga, Narada and Parasara have written samhitas (treatises) on this subject. The work incorporating Sun God's teachings to Maya is called Suryasiddhanta. There are treatises on astronomy written by celestials and sages and ordinary mortals. Of them, some are by Varahamihira, Aryabhatta, and Bhaskarachrya."

“ The three sections (skandhas)of Jyotisa  are: siddhanta, hora and samhita. The siddhanta skandha deals with arithmetic, trigonometry, geometry and algebra. The higher mathematics developed by the West in later centuries is found in our ancient Jyotisa. … Arithmetic, called ‘vyakta ganita’in Sanskrit, includes addition, substraction, multiplication and division. ‘Avyakta-ganita’ is algebra. ‘Jya’ means the earth and ‘miti’ is the method of measurement. ’Jyamiti’ evolved with the need to measure the sacrificial place: ‘geometry’ is derived from this word. The ‘geo’ to geography is from ‘jya’. There is a mathematical exercise called ‘Samikarana’ which is the same as ‘equation’.

“There is an equation in the ‘Apasthaba sulbha suthras’ which could not be proved until recently. Westerners had thought it could be faulty as they could not solve it. Now they (have) accepted it as right. That Indians had taken such great strides in mathematics, thousands of years ago has caused amazement in the west. There are a number of old equations still to be solved.

Bhaskarachrya, [a great mathematician, who lived eight hundred years ago,] wrote a mathematical treatise and named it 'Lilavati' after his daughter. It deals with arithmetic, algebra etc. It is a delightful book in which the problems are stated in verse as stories.  …. He also wrote the Siddhanta-Siromani which deals with how the position and movement of heavenly bodies are determined. …The father taught the widowed daughter mathematics and she became highly proficient in the subject.  Varahamihira, who lived about 1500 years ago, wrote a number of treatises including the Brihat-Samhita and the Brihatjataka. The first is a digest of many sciences, its content being a wonderful testimony to the variety of subjects in which our forefathers had taken strides. Brihatjataka is all about astrology."

Aryabhatta, famous for his Aryabhatta-Siddhanta, also lived 1500 years ago. The ‘Vakya Ganita’ now in use is said to be based on his siddhanta. ‘Varamihaira and Arybhatta’ are much acclaimed by mathematicians today.

(Chapters on pages 451-457 give the saint's explanation of how the siddhanta skandha was the precursor of modern mathematics and the differences between planets and stars. How the planets affect human life is dealt with thereafter. (see chapter below-- Ramanan)

(Later pages (pp 461-465) are also interesting to read. The Paramaguru begins to prove  that 'there are few scientific discoveries [such as Newton's law of gravitation, earth's revolution round the Sun, earth's round shape, its rotating on its axis, the Arabic numerals, the Zero in mathematics ] that are not mentioned or found in the treatises of Varahamihira, Aryabhatta, Bhaskarachrya etc. These are given below in brief.-Ramanan)

(1)            (Even before Newton found out the gravitational force), the very first stanza in the Suryasiddhanta, which is a very ancient treatise, states that is the force of attraction that keeps the earth from falling, called as ‘Akarsana-sakti’  (Here the saint quotes Adi Sankara and Upanishads profusely to prove his point. -sgvr)

(2)             Centuries ago, we knew not only about the earth’s force of attraction but also about its revolution round the Sun. ….. ‘It is the earth that revolves around the Sun, not the Sun round the earth’, declared Aryabhatta. …. Rig Veda says: ‘The Sun neither rises nor sets’.

(3)             Even before the Europeans discovered, we have known from early times that the earth is ‘gola’. That is why our geography is called ‘Bhugola sastra’.

(4)             We call the Universe with all galaxies, ‘Brahamanda’. It means the egg created by Brahma (the cosmic egg). Egg is oval shape; According to modern science, the universe too is oval in shape.

(5)             That cosmos is always in motion is denoted by the word ‘Jagat’(that which is going).

(6)             What are called Arabic numerals actually belong to India. This fact is discovered by westerners themselves. The Zero is also our contribution and without which mathematics would not have made any advance.

(7)             ‘Bhaskaracharya’ established that the subtle truth that any quantity divided by zero is infinity (ananta). He concludes one of his mathematical treatises with a benedictory verse in which he relates zero to the Ultimate reality.

The Mahaswamy concludes:  'As a matter of fact, our traditional sastras are a storehouse of science.'

…pp 449-471 ibid

The Grahas and Human Life

"The condition of a man corresponds to the changes in the position of the nine grahas. A human being does not enjoy happiness all the time nor does he always suffer hardships – that is, he experiences a mixture of happiness and sorrow. While he may be pushed up to a high position today, he may be thrust down to the depths tomorrow. It is not man alone that is subject to changes of fortune. Establishments too have their ups and down, so also nations."

"The sages saw a relationship between the position and movements of the planets and the destiny of man, the sorrow and happiness experienced by him. There is a branch of astrology called 'hora-skandha'. If we know the planetary position at the time of commencing a job or enterprise, with its help we should be able to find out how it would take shape, how we would fare in it. If our horoscope is cast on the basis of the configuration of the planets at the time of our birth, our fortunes over the entire period of our life can be predicted."

"Different reasons are given for the ups and downs in a man's life, for his joys and sorrows. It is similar to finding out the different causes of the ailment he suffers from. [The physicians, mantravadins, pandits, and psychologists will give different reasons.-These are elaborated by the Mahaswamy in page 458] … All these different causes may be valid. All of them go to create an experience. … Many outward signs manifest themselves as the fruits of our past karma. They are all related to one another. The course of planets governing our life is in accordance with our karma. We come to know the consequences of our actions in previous births in various ways. Astrological calculations help us to find out such consequences as indicated by the heavenly bodies."

…pp 458-459 ibid

Kalpa – The Hand

"Kalpa is the Sastra that involves you in 'work'…. A man has to apply the sastras he learnt to the rites he is enjoined to perform. He has to wash away his sins, the sins earned by acting according to his whims. This he does by the performance of good works. For this he must know the appropriate mantras and how to enunciate them correctly, understanding their meaning. Also certain materials are needed and a house that is architecturally suited to the conduct of rituals. The fruits yielded by these must be offered to Isvara. Kalpa concerns itself with these matters. …"

"How is a rite to be performed, what are the rituals imposed upon the four castes and people belonging to the four asramas (celibate students, householders, forest recluses and ascetics)? What are the mantras to be chanted during these various rites and what are the materials to be gathered? What kind of vessels are to be used, and how many rtviks (priests) are needed for the different rituals? All these come under the province of Kalpa. … Kalpa contains Grhyasutras and Srautasutras for each recension. Both deal with the 40 samskaras to be performed from conception to death. The cremation of the body is also a sacrifice, the final offering: it is called ‘anthyeshti’ and it is also to be performed with the chanting of Mantras. "

“A Brahmin has to perform 21 sacrifices: seven ‘haviryagnas’ based on agnihotra: seven ‘pakayagnas’ and seven ‘soma yagnas’. .. Together with these there are forty rites for a Brahmin-they are called ‘samskaras’. A ‘samskara’ is that which refines and purifies the performer.”

(The saint thereafter talks in detail of the sages who have contributed to the kalpa sastra, the various sacrifices to be performed, and the sutras. For these details, please refer to the original. --Ramanan)

"Kalpa deals with rites in their minutest detail. All the actions of a Brahmin have a Vedic connection. Through each and every breath he takes in, with each step he takes, he will be able to grasp the divine powers for the well being of the world because of this Vedic connection and only because of it. The Kalpa sutras contain rules with regard to how a Brahmin must sit, eat, wear his clothes and so on. This 'limb' of the Vedas also deals with the construction of houses, (as) the design of a Brahmin's dwelling must be such as to help him in the performance of his duties according to the scriptures. …" … pp 475-480 ibid

(PS: This concludes the six angas of Veda-sgvr)

 (Excerpts from the book entitled “Voice of God”-Vol 2, published by Sri Kanchi Mahaswamy Peetarohana Shatabdi Mahotsava Trust, Mumbai-2006 –pp-449-480). (Italics, highlighting and underlining are mine-sgvr.)

Table of Contents




Chapter 11

Fourteen Abodes of Knowledge

The Four Upangas : 1 – Mimamsa and Nyaya

After the four Vedas and the Shadangas, we have the four Vedangas of the Vedas. These are: Mimamsa, Nyaya, the Puranas and Dharmasastras.  In this Chapter we will cover the first two.

I would request all readers to carefully read the explanations given by Mahaswamy on Mimamsa. I am attempting here to summarize what I have understood in this Upanga as interesting points.

While getting into an enquiry into the meaning of Vedas, Mimamsa gives rise to different interpretations (mainly two) on Vedas given by two divisions of Mimamsikas, namely, Purva Mimamsikas and Uttara Mimamsikas. While giving such interpretations, basic questions are raised, such as this: (1) Is it enough if one merely follows strictly the rites enjoined in the Vedas and do nothing else? (2) Who is responsible for dispensing the fruits of one’s action? Is Isvara involved in it?

Answering these questions, one view expressed by Purva Mimamsikas is that: ‘If we perform the rites imposed on us by them, the fruits thereof will naturally follow and no God is required for this. It is the Vedic works performed by us that decides the fruits to be earned by us. Mimamsa holds karma to be a goal itself. The Vedas themselves constitute a great deity. We should never cease to do work because, ‘not to work’ is sinful. It will take us to hell.’

On the other hand, Uttara Mimamsikas claim that: Isvara is the creator of cosmos. Even adherents of other religions call God 'Karta'. But Isvara is more than a Karta and has one more function. We do good and evil with our mind, speech and body. The Lord is witness to all this and he dispenses the fruits of actions.’

Answering the first question, Purva Mimamsikas believe that: The Vedas themselves constitute a great deity. The sound of the Vedas does not take the form of deity that can be seen with our eyes but one that can be perceived with ears. Let us perform the works that the sound bid us to do without asking questions. To Mimamsikas only such rites matter as are enjoined on us by the Vedas. They are silent on the question of Isvara and of who created the world.

Adi Sankara’s views on the subject are that: : ‘The karmakanda of the Vedas mentions works because their performance is of some use in cleansing the mind. Fruits yielded by the rites, rewards like paradise, must be dedicated to Isvara and that in this very act of renunciation the mind is purified.  It is only if we realize that Isvara is the Phala-data, the one who awards the fruits of actions, that we will not be tempted by petty rewards like paradise. Only then will we inspired to go beyond to attain the higher reward of inner purity. …’ Sankara takes us, step by step, in this way to final release.

(Let us now see what the Mahaswamy says further on the two Upangas.-I should be excused for any repetition in this document: I chose to give this summary as it gives the core of the Mimamsa  principles .- sgvr)

Mimamsa – Karmamarga

"Mimamsa means esteemed or sacred inquiry. … It is an exegesis of the Vedas. Nirukta explains the meaning of the words of the Vedas, also their etymology in the fashion of a dictionary. Mimamsa goes further, to find out the significance of the mantras, their intent. It also gives its decision on these points. …”

“Mimamsa is divided into Purvamimamsa and Uttaramimamsa. The first holds that sacrifices and other rites of the Karmakanda form the most important part of the Vedas, while the second maintains that the realization of the Self taught in the Jnanakanda is the true goal. …"

"Uttaramimamsa, that is the Brahmasutra as well as the Upanishads, constitute the 'Brahmavidya' or Vedanta here. It is the foundation of the three important philosophical systems – Advaita (non-dualism or monism), Visistadvaita (qualified non-dualism or qualified monism) and Dvaita (dualism)."

" … The Purvamimamsa-sutra is by Jaimini Maharsi, its bhasya by Sabarsvamin and its Vartika by Kumarilabhatta. …Jaimini's Purvamimamsa-sutras is a voluminous work containing 1000 adhikaranas and twelve chapters. … If the Vedas are the law that determines how dharma is to be practiced, it is Jaimini who interprets the meaning of this law. His interpretation is Mimamsa. … In Jaimini's Mimamsa a thousand issues (or points) are examined, taking into account the views opposed to those of the author of the sutras, and the meaning of the Vedic passages determined with cogent reasoning {as in the case of high court cases, says the saint.-sgvr)."

"While Purvamimamsa concerns itself with the meaning of Karmakanda of the Vedas, Uttaramimamsa deals with the meaning of Jnanakanda, that is the Upanishads. The Upanishads speak primarily of Paramatman and our inseparable union with him. Vyasa, in his Brahmasutra, determines the meaning of the divine law constituted by the Upanishads. …"

Different Concepts of God: "Brahmasutra declares: Isvara is the creator of cosmos. Even adherents of other religions call God 'Karta'. But Isvara is more than a Karta and has one more function. We do good and evil with our mind, speech and body. The Lord is witness to all this and he dispenses the fruits of actions. These are the two characteristics (laksanas) of Isvara according to Uttaramimamsa. …"

"Sankhyas believe that Isvara is not the Karta or author of the Jagat (universe). 'Isvara is pure knowledge, jnana,' they say. 'This cosmos is insentient matter. To believe that Isvara is the author of the universe is not right.' To Mimamsikas only such rites matter as are enjoined on us by the Vedas. They are silent on the question of Isvara and of who created the world. However, they are emphatic on one point – that Isvara is not the one who dispenses the fruits of our actions. 'It is the Vedic works performed by us that decides the fruits to be earned by us.' …"

"We must accept the Mimamsa system's interpretation of the Vedas especially because it surrenders wholly to the 'Sabda-pramana', the sound of the Vedas, its authority, and it is in this spirit that it has understood the meaning of the scripture. … The Vedas themselves constitute a great deity. The sound of the Vedas does not take the form of deity that can be seen with our eyes but one that can be perceived with ears. Let us perform the works that the sound bid us to do without asking questions. …So, adherents of both Sankhya and Mimamsa hold the view that Isvara is not the creator of the world, that he does not award the fruits of our actions.”

Mimamsa Beliefs: "The Vedas speak about things not comprehended by the human mind. If we perform the rites imposed on us by them, the fruits thereof will naturally follow. Sound has always existed; it has indeed no beginning and the Vedas are sound. Like time and space they are ever present."

"If you do evil, the consequences shall be evil; if you do good, the result shall be correspondingly good. The rites keep yielding fruits, and we keep enjoying them – and thus we go on and on. No God is required for all this. We should never cease to do work because, ‘not to work’ is sinful. It will take us to hell."

"There are three types of Karmas: 'nitya, nimittika and kamya'. Nitya karma as the name suggests includes sacraments that must be performed every day. Nimittika rites are conducted for a specific purpose or reason or occasion (e.g. eclipse, great man's visit). A kamya-karma is a ritual that has a special purpose (e.g. varuna japa for rain, putrakamesti for getting a son)."

"The sacraments to be performed every day are defined in mimamsa. (they are of two types). The non-performance of some rites (like sandhyavandana) is a sin and brings us ills, troubles. On the other hand, some rites (e.g. worshipping deity in a temple, feeding the poor) bring us happiness (like good house, wealth, sons, fame, knowledge). It is the view of mimamsikas that agnihotra must be performed so long as one is alive. So they do not favour the Sanyasasrama (the last stage of life as an ascetic). … Giving up works, according to the mimamsikas, is extremely sinful. …"

Sankara's Reply: "The Acarya (Adi Sankara) views the last stage or asrama in a man's life as the years during which he renounces Vedic works and devotes himself to meditation and metaphysical enquiry. But, unlike the Buddha, he does not want Vedic karma to be given up in the earlier stages. According to him, only after a man cleanses his consciousness through the years of Vedic rituals is he to become exclusively devoted to Atmic inquiry. First accept the karma that Mimamsa asks us to perform and finally give up that very karma as suggested by Buddhism. … He was in agreement with the sacraments dealt with in that system, but he differed from it on the question of devotion to the Lord. He further believed that fruits yielded by the rites, rewards like paradise, must be dedicated to Isvara and that in this very act of renunciation the mind is purified. Sankara's teaching is this: it is only if we realize that Isvara is the Phala-data, the one who awards the fruits of actions, that we will not be tempted by petty rewards like paradise. Only then will we inspired to go beyond to attain the higher reward of inner purity. … Sankara takes us, step by step, in this way to final release."

"The mimamsikas accept Vedas because, according to them, the karma mentioned in them serves a purpose. So the purpose served by the karma is the message of the Vedas, and not the karma itself. … If being without karma is 'useful' by itself – if it serves a 'purpose' – that can also then be the message of Vedas. So the underlying goal of the Vedas is not the karma itself but the purpose behind it. …"

"Sankara's argument in convincing Madanamisra, Kumarilabhatta and others is: 'The karmakanda of the Vedas mentions works because their performance is of some use in cleansing the mind. If the purpose achieved by not performing them is a million million times greater than that gained by performing them, then that must be understood to be the message of the Vedas, the ultimate teaching of the Jnanakanda. The karmakanda helps the seeker in early stages. The performance of rites creates inner purity and takes him to Isvara. Karma performed for the sake of karma leads a man nowhere. The Vedas speak of Sanyasin's stage of life in which the ascetic, as he attains the Paramatman, becomes the Paramatman.' …"

Vedanta and Mimamsa: " The three leading Vedantic teachers (Sankara, Ramunaja, and Madhva), do not completely reject the mimamsa, but the paths they have cut go beyond the mimamsic view: devotion in the case of Visitadvaita and Dvaita and jnana in the case of Advaita. Mimamsa is called karmamarga since it teaches that karma is all. But karma here does not have the same meaning as in Vedanta which speaks of three paths – karma, bhakti and jnana. In Vedanta, karma is not performed for the sake of karma and is not an end itself, but consecrated to Isvara without any expectation of reward. This is also karmamarga or karmayoga. It is this view that the Lord Krisna expounds in the Gita. In the karmamarga of mimamsikas, there is no bhakti. But, all the same, the Vedic rituals create well-being in the world, lead to disciplined and harmonius social life and bring inner purity to the performer. [Thus] Mimamsa holds karma to be a goal itself, [whereas] Vedanta regards it as a means to a higher end."

… pp 483-516 ibid

20. Nyaya – Science of Reasoning

"Nyaya is also called Tarka-sastra and its author is Gautama. Its main purpose is to establish by reasoning that the Karta or Creator of this entire world is Paramesvara. Indeed, it seeks to prove the existence of Isvara through inference. Reasoning thus has a major place in Nyaya. …Without reason to guide us, it is like roaming aimlessly in the forest. But reason must be founded on authority. Nyaya finds the meaning of Vedic passages in this manner. ……. Kanada too created a Nyaya sastra: it is called 'Vaisesika'. One object distinguished from another on the basis of the special characteristics or 'particularities' of the two. The name Vaisesika is derived from the fact that it inquires into such particulars. There is good deal of science in this Nyaya sastra. Atmic matters like the individual self, the cosmos, Isvara, moksa or liberation are examined (in Vaisesika 'moksa is known by the name of 'apavarga')."

(The Paramaguru then gives details of the pramanas or instruments of knowledge followed in the inquiry of Truth under Nyaya, and the Padarthas (categories) which illuminate the Truth. – Ramanan)

"According to Vedanta, knowledge itself is the Atman: Atman is jnana in a plenary sense. Apart from it, and outside it, there is nothing to be known. Indeed we cannot speak of different jivatmans. According to Nyaya, the Atman is a dravya or substance, knowledge (jnana) being its quality. Nyaya describes Paramatman alone as jnana that is full, since there is nothing that is not known to him. The individual self possesses only a little knowledge. The Paramatman is 'Sarvajna', the One who knows all. We are in a mixed state of being dependent on both jnana and ajnana. The Paramatman is dependent on (or its) jnana alone. The Atman is 'vibhu', all pervading. Nyaya also says the Paramatman is all-pervading., but it does not speak of the two being the same, the Atman and Paramatman. The reason for this is that, according to Nyaya, knowledge exists independently in each individual as a separate factor. The place where it dwells is the mind – and it is the mind that causes sorrow and happiness."

" .. The Truth will be known, Nyaya says, if we know knowledge of the Padarthas and develop detachment that will lead to release. Liberation is a state in which we know neither sorrow nor happiness. … We are able to know the pancabhutas or the five elements, the individual self and the mind. … It is to know him (Paramatman), that we employ anumana, the method of inference. …"

"Nyaya or Tarka (logic) gives rationalism its due place, but this does not lead to materialism, atheism, or the Lokayata system. Through intellectual inquiry, Nyaya comes to the conclusion that, if the world is so orderly with so many creatures in it, all of them are inter-linked; there must be an Isvara to have created it. Nyaya recognizes that there are areas that cannot be comprehended by human reason and that the truths that cannot be established rationally must be accepted according to how Vedas see them. This means that Nyaya takes every care to see that reasoning does not take a course that is captious (Acharya's view is that tarka should not become kutarka) and that it leads to the discovery of truth."

"To examine something with the instrument of knowledge is to purify that very knowledge. It is also a means of obtaining intellectual clarity. When there is lucidity, the truth, which is beyond the reach of this very intellect, will appear to us in a flash. (In other words there will be an intuitive perception of the truth.)"

"Vaisesika takes the thread of inquiry from where Nyaya leaves it with its Pramanas. According to the great sage Kanada, the founder of Vaisesika, everything ultimately is made up of atoms. Isvara created the world by different combination of atoms. In both Nyaya and Vaisesika, the cosmos and the individual self are entities separate from Isvara. … [Even so, it (Nyaya) was opposed to atheism and established the existence of Isvara]. …"

"As we inquire into the origin of conscious life and the insentient atom and go step by step in our inquiry, we realize in the monistic truth that everything is the manifestation or disguise of the same Paramatman. Nyaya is the intermediate stage to arrive at the truth."

“It must be said as one of the distinctive features of  Nyaya that it inspires us to go in quest of ‘Apavarga’  (Moksa) by creating discontent in our worldly existence. Another of its distinguishing feature is that it employs all its resources of reasoning to contend against the doctrines of Buddhists, the Sankyas and Charvakas to establish the principle of Iswara as Karta (Ceartor).”

Nyaya holds that the world is real (not Maya), that the Paramatman is different from the individual self. Even so, it was opposed to atheism and established the existence of Iswara. Besides, it laid the foundations for the path leading us to Advaitha.”

… pp 517-543 ibid

The other two Upangas will be covered in the next two Chapter- sgvr

(Excerpts from the book entitled “Voice of God”-Vol 2, published by Sri Kanchi Mahaswamy Peetarohana Shatabdi Mahotsava Trust, Mumbai-2006 –pp-483-543) . (Italics, highlighting and underlining are mine-sgvr.)

Table of Contents




Chapter 12

Fourteen Abodes of Knowledge

The Four Upangas : 2 - Puranas


In this Chapter, I will cover the Upanga-‘Puranas’. Before explaining this Upanga, the saint expresses his unhappiness at the way school children are taught history which has no lessons to learn from. His logical presentation of the fallacious thinking of the modern historians on the subject is amazing. (In my condensation, I might have failed to bring this clearly. I would suggest reading of the entire lecture as presented in the book (Vol. 2).-sgvr)

Puranas and History

Mahaswamy says: “In my opinion the Puranas are history. … To our educated people today, history means the history if the past two thousand years since the birth of Christ. They do not believe that events of the earlier eras, including those mentioned in the Puranas, are history. … They dismiss (the Puranas) as fables or tissue of lies. Since they are unable to comprehend matters that are beyond our senses, they treat the Puranas as mystery."

"Now our children have no choice but to read the textbooks of history written by such people.. …I believe it is not good to keep children ignorant of the Puranas; they are also history and our youngsters have a great deal to learn from them, a great deal that will help them in moulding their conduct and character. No such purpose is served by the history taught in schools"

"History must be taught along with lessons in dharma; then alone will it serve the purpose of bringing people to the right path. The Puranas do precisely this. …. Besides, they contain lessons in papa and punya (demerit and merit). In fact, their choice of stories and narration are such as to bring people closer to dharma. Again, the Puranas contain accounts of individuals who by virtue of their steadfast adherence to dharma attained to an elevated state in this birth itself. At the same time, they also tell us about persons who, by the acts of adharma, came to harm in this very birth itself. There is no Puranic story that does not contain some moral lessons or other. …"

"English historians dismiss the Puranas as false. But, on the pretext of carrying out impartial research, they twist the history to suit their ends like, for instance, their 'divide and rule' policy. It is in this way they have propagated the Aryan-Dravidian theory. If the Puranas are a lie, what about the history written by these Englishmen? Efforts are going on to reconstruct our history. But the prejudicial accounts cannot be ruled out on these new attempts also. Whatever claims the historians make to impartiality, it is hard to say how far the new history (or histories) are likely to be truthful."

"Those who distrust the Puranas maintain that they contain accounts that are not in keeping with the realities of day today life. The stories in these texts refer to the arrival and departure of celestials and their awarding boons to devotees. … A woman is turned into a stone because of a curse and then the curse is broken with the grant of a boon; or the Sun is stopped from rising – such stories seem to be untrue to us because they are beyond the realms of possibility and refer to acts beyond our own capacity."

"Since such things do not happen these days, is it right to argue that they could not have occurred at any time? In the past, the mantras of the Vedas had their own vibrant power because of the exemplary life led by those who chanted them. Then people practiced severe austerities and cultivated yogic power of a high order. These facts are born out by ancient books. Through their mantras, austerities and yoga, people could easily draw to themselves powers of a divine nature. Where there is light there is shadow. So with divine powers there also existed demonic forces that could be seen in their gross form during those times. … Eons ago, people could perceive those forces of good and evil because of the special vision gained from their austerities. Scientists say that all light and sound waves cannot be grasped by the human sense organs. Some of them go a step further to observe, on the basis of their researches, that there are indeed 'good and evil deities'. Even today, there are present in this world any number of yogins and siddha purushas. They are unscathed by fire or snow, they can produce rain or stop it, and have powers that cannot be comprehended by our senses. … Puranas contain accounts of many a miracle. … It does not stand to reason to treat what we do not know and what we cannot know as untrue. In our own times we see that what we normally regard as unbelievable happens now and then. …"

 “History repeats itself. The idea is lessons of the past would be helpful to us in the future. ….. According to Sastras, the Ramayana, the Mahabharata, the Bhagavatha, the Dasavathars and the Puranas are re-enacted kalpa after kalpa (several thousands after thousands of years). Here too we see history repeats itself.”

(The saint gives here a vivid account of the events in the recent past of such miracles that took place in the Tamil kingdoms. He also gives instances of children born with more than one head and of a snake born to a marwari women fifteen generations ago to prove his postulation that miracles do happen in this world and, therefore, the Puranas and incidents therein cannot be dismissed merely because they are beyond our comprehension. -Ramanan)

Puranas-The magnifying glass of Vedas

"The Puranas are the magnifying glass of the Vedas. The principles and rules of dharma that are briefly dealt with in the Vedas are enlarged or elaborated upon in them in the form of stories. … The Vedas urge us to speak the truth ('satyam vada'). How one becomes exalted by remaining truthful at all costs is illustrated by the story of Harischandra. 'Dharmam cara' (follow dharma, live a life of dharma) is a vedic injunction consisting of just two words. The importance of the pursuit of dharma is explained through the long story of Dharmaputra [Yudhistra] in the Mahababharata. 'Mathru-devobhava' and 'pithru-devobhava' (Be one to whom the mother is a God – be one to whom the father is a God); these two admonishments are enlarged on, as it were, through the magnifying glass in the story of Sri Rama. Such dharmic virtues as humility, patience, compassion, chastity, which are the subject of Vedic ordinances, are illustrated through the noble examples of men belonging to ancient times, women of hallowed reputation. By reading these stories or listening to them, we form a deep attachment to the virtues and qualities exemplified by them."

"All these men and women whose accounts are contained in the Puranas had to undergo trials and tribulations. We keep committing so many wrongs. But consider these Puranic characters who had to suffer more than we suffer. Indeed some of them had to go through terrible ordeals. However, by reading their stories, we do not form the impression that adherence to dharma means suffering. On the contrary, etched in our minds is the example of men and women of great inner purity who in their practice of dharma stood like a rock against all difficulties and challenges. At the same time, we are moved by their tales of woe and thereby our own inner impurities are washed away. Finally, the glorious victory they achieve in the end and the fame they achieve help to create a sturdy bond in us with dharma."                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            

"… There may be mistakes in the Puranic accounts of the earth and the heavens. After all, we can have accurate knowledge of such matters from our books on geography and astronomy. The point to remember is that the Puranas contain what geography, astronomy and history do not; (namely) the truth of the Ultimate Reality. Besides they speak about devotion and dharma. …"

“ (Sage)Vyasa divided the Vedas to make them easier for people to learn. It was to help mankind similarly that he composed the ashtadasa Puranas (the eighteen Puranas).”

“Vyasa composed the Puranas in 400.000 'granthas'. A grantha is a stanza consisting of 32 syllables. Of these Skanda Purana alone accounts for 100,000. It is perhaps the world's biggest literary work. The remaining 17 Puranas add upto 300,000 granthas. Apart from them, Vyasa composed the Mahabharata, also nearly 100,000 granthas."

"Each Purana is devoted to a particular deity. There are Saiva, Vaisnava,and Sakta Puranas.. The eighteen Puranas are: Brahma, Padma, Narada, Markandeya, Visnu, Siva, Bhagavata, Agni, Bhavisya, Brahma-Vaivarta, Linga, Varaha, Skanda Maha, Vamana, Kurma, Matsya, Garuda and Brahmananda Puranas. … Though there is a separate Siva Purana, three fourths of Skanda Purana is devoted to Siva. It also includes the story of Skanda or Muruga.Bhavisya (means future) Purana contains many matters including the evil doings of the age of Kali. …"

"The Garuda Purana deals with the world of the fathers and related matters. It is customary to read it during the sraddha ceremony. 'Lalitopakhyana', the story of Lalitambika, occurs in the Brahmananda Purana, so also the 'Lalita Sahasranama.' (The one thousand names of Lalita). The readings of eighteen Puranas is to be concluded with this Purana which contains a description of the coronation of Rajarajesvari. … The Puranas contain many hymns that include the one hundred and eight or the one thousand names of the various deities. …"

…pp.545-565 ibid

Upa-Puranas and others

"Apart from the 18 major Puranas, there are an equal number of Upa-Puranas. Among them are the Vinayaka Purana and the Kalki Purana. There are also a number of minor Puranas. The Puranas that speak of the glory of various months such as Tula Purana, the Magha Purana and the Visakha Purana are parts included in the 18 major Puranas or Upa-Puranas. There are also what is called Sthala Puranas, some of them form part of the Puranas mentioned above and some existing independently. The Puranas that sing the glory of the Kaveri and the Ganga exist both separately and as part of the major Puranas or the Upa-Puranas. In the Tula Purana, for instance, the importance of the Kaveri is the theme. It mentions how auspicious it is to bathe in that river in the month of Tula (October-November)."

"If there are Puranas devoted to deities, there are those dealing with devotees. The Tamil Periyapuranam tells the story of the 63 Saiva Saints called the Nayanmars. The same is available in Sanskrit as Upamanyu Bhaktivilasa. Bhakti Vijaya deals with poet saints like Tukarama and Namadeva who were especially devoted to the deity Panduranga of Pandharpur."

…pp.566 ibid

Differences among Gods

In later pages, the Mahaswamy narrates the differences in the various Puranas  and gives clarifications on oft repeated questions  on  Puranas like this: (1) Why differences amongst Gods?; (2)  Why particular deity is exalted over others?; (3) Which of the stories in the Puranas are true or which are false?

The Mahaswamy’s explanations are given in brief below:

“The Paramathman is one and only one. He creates sustains and destroys. It is He who exfoliates as the many different deities. … The Paramathman himself assumes different forms to suit the temperament of different people so that each worships Him in the form he likes and obtain happiness.  ……. If we realize all (Gods) are the different disguises of the One Reality, the various Gods and Goddesses portrayed in the Puranas , with all the differences amongst them, will be understood to be nothing but the Lila or sport of the Supreme Being. It is the One alone that seems to be divided into manifold entities. This is to help men of various attitudes and temperaments. If this truth is recognized, we shall be able to see the stories in the Puranas- stories that seem contradictory- in the true light. …. To make a man a confirmed devotee of the form in which he likes to adore the Lord, the Paramathman on occasions diminishes himself in His other forms. … If the Puranas are read in an attitude of respect and humility and with the honest intention that we should benefit by reading them, there will be no cause for confusion. We will gain the wisdom to treat them as works meant for our ultimate well-being.

….pp 571-583 ibid

Puranas as Friend

The Vedas ask you to ‘do like this’ or do like that’. They do not say why. To question them, it is believed, is to dishonor them. The Puranas, however, tell you in a friendly manner: ‘If you do like this, you will benefit in such and such a manner. If you do the same in some other way, you will suffer…..’ Such lessons are driven home to people through absorbing stories, which tell you why you should do a work and state the reason for the same.”

Sthala Puranas

Then, the Mahaswamy talks about Sthala Puranas (short Puranas pertaining to particular places) and refutes the theory that they are false. After detailed analysis of several of them, he opines: “I believe that Sthala Puranas are by and large authentic. 

He further says: “In my opinion, the Sthala Puranas not only enbles us to have an insight into history, but also enrich our knowledge of local culture and customs. …. They fill the gap in the major Puranas. ……In teaching the lessons in Dharma also, the Sthala Puranas are in no way inferior to the major Puranas. They throw light on the finer points of Dharma.”

….. pp 587-605 ibid

Itihasas and Puranas

"For the learned and the un-lettered alike in our country, the Ramayana and the Mahabharata have for centuries been like their two eyes, pointing to them the path of dharma. The poetic works are not included among the Puranas and are accorded a special place a 'itihasas' …."

"… An Itihasa means a true story, also a contemporary account. Valmiki composed the Ramayana during the life time of Rama. Vyasa, the author of the Mahabharata, lived during the time of the five Pandavas and was witness to the events narrated by him in his epic."

In the Puranas, Vyasa has dealt with the stories or events of the past; he could see into the past as he could into the future. So what he has written of the past is an eye witness account. However, his contemporaries would not have known about them. The Mahabharata and the Ramayana are different. When these works were first made known to the world, most people must have been familiar with the characters and events described in them. There is thus no reason to doubt their authenticity."

"If the Puranas are described as constituting an Upanga of the Vedas, the Itihasas (the epics) are so highly thought of as to be placed on an equal footing with the Vedas. The Mahabharata is indeed the fifth Veda. Of the Ramayana it is said: 'As the Supreme Being, who is so exalted as to be known by the Vedas, was born the son of Dasaratha, the Vedas themselves took birth as the child of Valmiki [in the form of Ramayana]'. … The stories of the Ramayana and Mahabharata are in the blood stream of our people, so to speak. … The bigger Puranas contain a number of independent stories, each highlighting a particular dharma. In the Itihasas or epics, it is one story from the beginning to the end. In between, there are episodes but these revolve round the main story or theme. In the Puranas, as mentioned above, each story speaks of a particular dharma, while in the Itihasa, the main or central story seeks to illustrate all dharmas. …"

…pp.567-570 ibid

(The fourth Upanga – Dharmasastras one of the most important one to be learnt and followed will be covered in the next two Chapters- sgvr)

(Excerpts from the book entitled “Voice of God”-Vol 2, published by Sri Kanchi Mahaswamy Peetarohana Shatabdi Mahotsava Trust, Mumbai-2006 –pp-545-610) . (Italics, highlighting and underlining are mine-sgvr.)

Table of Contents




Chapter 13

Fourteen Abodes of Knowledge

The Four Upangas : 3 – Dharmasastras (a)

In this Chapter, I will cover the Upangas, namely Dharmasastras’, which is the last among the fourteen branches of learning. This and the next Chapter (which is in continuation of this) are among the most important ones and need to be carefully gone through and practiced.


Introducing Dharmasastras, the Mahaswamy says:

"The noble characters who figure in the Puranas serve as an ideal for all of us to follow. … But, neither the Puranas nor the epics deal with the rites in a codified form, nor do they contain directions for their performance. … "

“How can we live according to the tenets of our religion so as to wash away our sins, cleanse ourselves and attain the Moksa of everlasting happiness? … For this, what are the things we have to do? Is it practicable to be engaged in devotional worship all the time, or keep reciting sthotras and meditating throughout? No. … We need to engage ourselves in other good activities. How do we know about them?’

(The saint here says the answer to this is 'From Dharmasastras' - Ramanan).

"The Dharmasastra, contains practical instructions in our duties, in the rites to be performed by us, in detail and in a codified form."

"There is an orderly way of doing things, a proper way, with regard to household and personal matters including bathing and eating. … Whatever we do must be done in the right manner – how we lie down, how we dress, how we build our house. The idea is that all this helps our inner being. Life is not compartmentalized into secular, worldly and religious. The Vedic Dharma is such that in the mundane affairs are inspired by the religious spirit. Whatever work is done is done with the chanting of mantras and thus becomes a means of Atmic progress. Just as worldly life and religious life are integrated, harmonized, so are the goals of individual liberation and common welfare kept together."

“The sixth Vedanga, Kalpa, contains the Dharmasuthras,Gruhyasuthras and Srauthasuthras, relating to the rites based on the Vedas. But the Suthras are brief and not comprehensive. The Dharmasastras elaborate on them without leaving any room for doubt.”

The Dharmasastras (by Apastamba, Gutama, and others) are terse statements and are so according to the very definition of the term 'sutras'. The Dharmasastras (by Manu, Yajnavalkya, Parasara and others) are called 'Smrutis' and are in verse and detailed treatment. Their basis, however, is constituted by the Vedas. The function of Dharmasastras is to analyze and explicate the sutras of kalpa which has to some extent systematized the Vedic rules and injunctions. If kalpa gives instructions about the construction of the Vedic altar, of houses etc., Dharmasastra provides a code of conduct embracing all human activities."

" … Smruti is what is remembered. 'ViSmruti' is insanity. Manu observes: 'There is Smruti for the Vedas in the form of notes. The sages who had a profound understanding of Vedas have brought together the duties and rites (dharma and karma) mentioned in the form of notes and they constitute the Smrutis. They are written in a language that we can easily understand. Read them. They tell you about your duties in detail, and dos and don'ts, and how the rites are to be performed'."

" .. Actually these are rituals to be conducted from the time of conception until death. The Smrutis also lay down the daily routine to be followed by all of us."

… pp 613-616 ibid

Smrutis and Allied Works

" … Apart from the eighteen (Smrutis), there are eighteen subsidiary Smrutis called UpaSmrutis. … What we find in one Smruti may not be found in another. There may be differences between one Smruti and another. These give rise to doubts which are sought to be cleared by the works called 'Dharmasastra Nibandhanas'. … The Nibandhanas do not leave out any rite or dharma. Differences between various Smrutis are sought to be reconciled in them."

"Each region follows its own Nibandhana. In the North, it is the one authored by Kasinatha Upadhyaya. In Maharastra, it is the 'Mitaksara': it has the force of law and is accepted as such by the law courts. Niryanasindhu by Kamalakara Bhatta is also accepted as an authority there. In the South, the Vaidyanatha-Diksitiyam by Vaidyanatha Diksita is followed. These are the important authorities for householders. Sanyasins follow Visvesvara Samhita.The Dharmasastras are not difficult to follow as the Vedas and can be understood with a little knowledge of Sanskrit."

"Vaidyanatha-Diksitiyam is considered superior even to similar works by Medhatihi, Vijnesvara, Hemadri and so on. Exhaustive in nature, it deals with the duties and rites pertaining to different castes and asramas (the four stages of life), ritual purity, sraddha, prayacitta, stri-dharma, daya-bhaga, dravya-suddhi. It even gives directions about the division of paternal property. When the Hindu Code Bill was introduced in free India, some put forward the view that the division of property must be based on sastras. Such division is called 'dayabhaga'. The division of property in Kerala, in the uncle-nephew line, is called marumakkatayam. The word 'dayadi' is derived from 'daya'."

“Dikshita had the comparative advantage of making a comparative study of all the previous works on Dharmasastras and arrived at conclusions only after resolving the contradictions in them”


Bangalore 560003, India



Subject: Celestial Truths- Series 16-Four Upangas 2-Puranas
Date: Sat, 4 Oct 2008 09:03:14 +0530

…pp 617-620 ibid

Freedom and Discipline

“(Today) freedom has come to mean the license to do what one likes to indulge one's every whim. The strong and the rough are free to harass the weak and the virtuous. Thus, we recognize the need to keep people bound to certain laws and rules. However, the restrictions must not be too many. To choke a man with too many rules and regulations is to kill his spirit. A limit must be set on how far individuals and society can be kept under control.”

"This is the reason why our sastras have not committed everything to writing and enacted laws to embrace all activities. In many matters they let people to follow in the footsteps of their elders or great men. … In some matters people are given the freedom to follow the tradition or go by the personal example of others or by local or family custom. …"

"Hindu Dharmasastra has come under attack for ordering a man with countless rules and regulations and not allowing him freedom to act on his own. But actually the Sastras respect his freedom and allow him to act on his own in many spheres. Were he given unbridled freedom he would ruin himself and the world too. The purpose of the code of conduct formulated by our sastras is to keep him within certain bounds. But, this code does not cover all activities since makers of our sastras thought that people should not be too tightly shackled by the dharmic regulations."

" …The Apastamba-sutra is an authority widely followed. In its concluding part the great sage Apastamba observes: 'I have not dealt with all duties. There are so many dharmas still to be learned. Know them from the women and fourth varna.' From this it is clear that the usual criticism that men kept women suppressed or that Brahmins kept non-Brahmins suppressed is not true. In a renowned and widely accepted Dharmasastra such as that of Apastamba, women and Sudras are authoritatively recognized to be knowledgeable in some aspects of dharma. … The Dharmasastras include the samskaras and other rituals to be performed by the fourth varna; this Jathi has not been ignored. "

The Dharmasastras have usually chapters on ‘achara’ and ‘vyavahara’. The first denotes matters of custom and tradition and that serves as a general discipline. The second means translating them as external activities.”

… pp 621-623 ibid

Signs and Marks

“If we belong to a particular religion, there are some external marks and symbols for it. … (Just like scouts) This discipline as well as orderliness is essential in religion also. That is why different Jathis and different Asramas have different functions and signs. According to the Dharmasastras, we must wear the dhoti or the saree in a particular style or apply the mark on the forehead in a particular manner. All this is not meant for social discipline alone. There is a subtle aspect in each of these which purifies in our inner life.”

(Just as in courts badges are worn for certain categories of staff, we have certain symbols). “But we object when sastras assign different signs and marks to the people according to their vocations and family customs. We make a noise in the name of equality. Even though we are divided on functional basis-which indeed is for the welfare of the entire society-we are united in our hearts. This is the ideal behind social arrangement in which different jathis are assigned different rites and external symbols, nothing in keeping with their natural qualities and callings. There is no high or low in all this. ….. We dismiss all religious marks and symbols as superstitious. But those who want to proclaim themselves to be reformers don a particular type of cap or upper cloth and these external trappings are given greater importance than symbols of a divine nature.”

…..pp 624-625 ibid

 Source of Smrutis – Vedas

"There is a wrong impression about the Dharmasastras even among those who treat them with respect. … People ask me: 'Why should not the sastras be changed to suit the times?' …If the sages had created the Smrutis on their own, to represent their own views, there would be no compulsion to accept them. …But those who want the Dharmasastras changed do not seem to know that they (the Smrutis) do not reflect the views of the sages who composed them. What the authors of the Smrutis have done is to present us in an orderly fashion what is already contained in the Vedas. The Vedic word cannot and must not be changed at any time and on any account. The same applies to the rules and laws laid down in the SmrutisI do not possess the authority to revise the sastras according to what is felt to be convenient to the present times or what is in keeping with the new beliefs."

(Here, the Mahaswamy quotes the authority of religious leaders, Sankara, Ramanuja, Madhava, and poet Kalidasa to prove that  Dharmasastras (Smrutis) followed Vedas. An interesting story is also given of the King Dilipa belonging to Raghuvamsa.)

"…In the Puranas, the Vedic truths are illustrated in the form of stories. The Smrutis bring the Vedic dharmas and karmas in the form of instructions and injunctions and tell us how the rites are to be performed…For the sages, the Vedas constituted an experience that just happened to them. The Smrutis or Dharamasastras are derived from their memory of it. … Just as the Sthala Puranas fill in the gaps in the major Puranas and the epics, so the Smrutis speak of what is left out in the Vedas…"

…pp.626-634 ibid

This will be continued in the next Chapter which will deal with an important part of Smrutis, called ‘Samskaras’.

(The fourth Upanga-Dharmasastras will be concluded in the next Chapter- sgvr)

(Excerpts from the book entitled “Voice of God”-Vol 2, published by Sri Kanchi Mahaswamy Peetarohana Shatabdi Mahotsava Trust, Mumbai-2006 –pp-613-634) . (Italics, highlighting and underlining are mine-sgvr.)

Table of Contents




Chapter 14

Fourteen Abodes of Knowledge

The Four Upangas : 4 – Dharmasastras (b) concld – Forty Samskaras

In this Chapter, I will conclude the last of the four Upangas namely Dharmasastras’ and with it, the fourteen abodes of knowledge of the Hindu Religion.

Here, the Mahaswamy explains the eight Athmagunas and forty Samskaras which form the backbone of Dharmasastras.

In an earlier Chapter (7), I had brought out Swamiji’s justification for rituals in Hindu religion. I am recapitulating here some of his main thoughts. –sgvr

“If the mind is left alone, it will of course go the wrong way uncontrolled. It is only for one in several thousands 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.”

“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.”


Let us now see what Swamiji says on Samskaras.


"‘Samskara’ means making something good, refining or purifying it. The Dharmasastras deal with such Samskaras as purify a man so as to make him fit to be united with Paramatman. From the Dharmasastras we know in detail the forty Samskaras that are based on the Kalpa-sutras and that are to be performed by a man during his life's journey."

After defining ‘Samskara’, the Saint begins to give a background to help us understand the need there for.

Paradise and Athamajnana

“Our life is a mixture of joy and sorrow. Some experience more joy than sorrow and some more sorrow (than joy). There are rare individuals who can control their minds and keep smiling even in the midst of sorrow. On the other hand, there are quite a few people who have much to be happy about but who keep a long face. If there is want, it is sorrow.”

“All beings long for everlasting happiness. The two abodes of happiness are: Deva loka, the world of celestials or paradise and Athmajnana, the state of awareness of self. …… This state, this joy supreme, is not experienced by the mind or the senses. It is the highest, the most exalted state and it transcends the senses and the mind; it is a state in which a man becomes aware that ‘the body is not I, the intelligence is not I, the conscious is not I.’ (On the other hand), Paradise (Swarga) is the place where happiness is always experienced by the mind and the senses.”

“But a difference exists between the joy experienced in the paradise and the bliss experienced by the knower of the self. ….. If a man has earned a great deal of merit (punya), he will remain there (paradise) until he is reborn. He cannot remain there permanently. …… Happiness gained through the senses is derived from external objects which cannot be ours for all time.”

“According to Upanishads, you will have eternal bliss if the senses and the mind are removed, in the same way as you draw off the rib from the stalk of corn, and remain just the Atman. This requires courage and which cannot be had unless purity of mind is attained. Observance of religious rituals is meant for creating Chiththasudhdhi (purity of mind). There are forty Samskaras to purify a person with vedic mantras and to involve him in the rites associated with those mantras.”

“It must be the goal to achieve purity of mind by Karmanushtanas. Then, with the mind having been cleansed, we must meditate on the self and become one with it. This is the philosophy of Sankara.”                                    

  ……. pp 638-640 ibid

Three types of Worlds

The three worlds are: Deva loka where there is nothing but pleasure; Manushya loka (this world of ours) where there is mixture of happiness and sorrow; Naraka loka, where there is nothing but sorrow. …. Our sastras say that this world of ours is better than the other two. …. It is only here that we have freedom and we may earn merit or demerit by our actions. …. There is not this kind of freedom on the other worlds. The Devas are like cows, which have neither merit nor sin in its life. Only we human beings can attain liberation through good actions. …… Our world alone is Karmabhumi (world of action). And even here, only the humans are capable of thinking and acting on their own. All other creatures act according to their instincts. Those in other worlds have no right for doing Karma.”

A man’s actions, his works, together with his character, determine his passage other worlds. Only in this karmabhumi, can we perfect our character by performing virtuous acts and thus qualify to go another world.”

“There is a time and place to conduct a religious rite. It has to be performed in hallowed places and during sanctified hours.”

…. pp 641-642 ibid

(After this introduction, the Mahaswamy begins to explain the eight Athmagunas and forty Samskaras.-sgvr)

The Eight Qualities (Gunas)

" … The sages have laid down the forty Samskaras and the eight 'Athmagunas' for this purpose. … Owing to Maya, we do not realize that we are the Atman without qualities. It is the Self perceived in our dualistic life that is referred to when we speak of Samskaras and it is full of impurities that have to be removed through the Samskaras and by cultivating the eight Athmagunas and made good. Once we succeed in this, there will be neither any samskara nor any Guna. We will transcend all Gunas, all qualities, including the highest of them, sattvaguna. Finally, there will be only the Self without any karma, without any Gunas, without distinction between Jivatman and Paramatman. But, to come to this state, we have to go through the process of Samskaras and cultivate the eight Gunas."

"If we wish to emulate the example of the noble characters of the Puranas, we will have to contend against obstacles like our attachments and desires, our feelings of hatred and fear. We will have to be disciplined through works and we will have to observe the rules about our daily routine, about how we should sit and stand, eat and dress. In this way, we will rein in our mind, subdue our passions and ego, and our feelings of anger, hatred, fear and sorrow will gradually wither away. The Samskaras and AtmaGunas are interconnected. They will help to acquire the qualities of the noble Puranic characters whose stories we listen to or read."

"The eight Gunas are: dhaya (love for all creatures), kshanti (patience), anasuya (free of jealousy and envy),  saucha (cleanliness), anayasa (take hardships lightly), mangala (being cheerful, dignified and bring cheer and auspiciousness), akarpanya (being generous and courageous), and aspruha (free from desire)."

"'Dhaya' implies love for all creatures, such love being the very fulfillment of life. There is indeed no greater happiness than that derived by loving others. Daya is the backbone of all qualities."

" 'Kshanti' is patience. One kind of ksanti is patiently suffering disease, poverty, misfortune and so on. The second is forgiveness and it implies loving a person even if he causes us pain and trouble."

" 'Anasuya' you know is the name of the sage Atri's wife. She was utterly free from jealousy: that is how she got the name which means non-jealousy. Heart-burning caused by another man's prosperity or status is jealousy. We ought to have love and compassion for all and ought to be patient and forgiving even towards those who do us wrong. We must not envy people their higher status even if they be less deserving of it than we are and, at the same time, must be mature enough to regard their better position as the reward they earned by doing good in their previous life."

" 'Saucha' is derived from 'suci', meaning cleanliness. Purity is to be maintained in all matters such as bathing, dress, food. There is a saying often quoted even by the unlettered: 'Cleanliness makes you happy and it even appeases your hunger'. To see a clean person is to feel ourselves clean."

"In Manu's listing of dharmas that are applicable to all, ahimsa or nonviolence comes first, followed by satya (truthfulness), asteya (non-covetousness; non-stealing is the direct meaning), sauhca (cleanliness) and indriya-nigraha (subduing the senses or even obliterating them)."

"The fifth Atmaguna is 'anayasa'. It is the opposite of 'ayasa' which denotes effort, exertion, etc. Anayasa means to have a feeling of lightness, to take things easy. One must not keep a long face, wear a scowl or keep lamenting one's hardships. If you lose your cool you will be a burden to yourself as well as to others. Anayasa is a great virtue …. Obstacles, inevitable to any work or enterprise, must not cause you any mental strain. You must not feel any duty to be a burden and must develop the attitude that everything happens according to the will of the Lord. … We must learn to make light of all the hardships that we encounter in life."

"What is 'mangala', the sixth guna? There is mangala or an auspicious air about happiness that is characterized by dignity and purity. One must be cheerful all the time and not keep growling at people on the slightest pretext. This itself is extremely helpful, to radiate happiness wherever we go and exude auspiciousness. It is better than making lavish gifts and throwing money about."

"To do a job with a feeling of lightness is anayasa. To be light ourselves, creating joy wherever we go is mangala. We must be like a lamp spreading light and should never give cause for people to say, 'Oh! He has come to find fault with everything." Wherever we go we must create a sense of happiness. We must live auspiciously and make sure that there is happiness brimming over everywhere."

" 'Akarpanya' is the next guna. Miserliness is the quality of karpana or miser. 'Akarpanya' is the opposite of miserliness. We must give generously and whole-heartedly. … Akarpanya is the quality of a courageous and zestful person who can face problems determinedly."

" 'Aspruha' is the last of the eight qualities. 'Spruha' means desire; a grasping nature. 'Aspruha is the opposite, being without desire. Desire is at the root of all trouble, all evil and, all through the ages, it has been the cause of misfortunes. But to eradicate it from the mind of men seems an almost impossible task. By performing rites again and again and by constantly endeavouring to acquire the Atmic qualities, one will eventually become desireless. … The Buddha calls desire thirst. Intense desire for an object is 'thrushna'. (The Buddha calls it 'tanha' in Prakrut.) His chief teaching is the conquest of desire"

"Desirelessness is the last of the eight qualities. The first one, Dhaya is the life-breath of Christianity. Each religion lays emphasis on a particular quality, though all qualities are included in the teaching of the Buddha, Jesus Christ, the Prophet Mohammed, Guru Nanak, Zoroaster, Confucius and the founders of all other religions. Even if these qualities may not have been pointedly mentioned in their teachings, it is certain that none of them would regard people lacking them with approval."

… pp 645-649 ibid

The Forty Samskaras

"All religions teach people to be loving, to be truthful and to be free from jealousy, desire and greed. But our religion goes further by prescribing various Samskaras for acquiring these qualities in practical life. …. This practical training makes people virtuous and helps them in acquiring moral excellence.  ….. The one who performs them and cultivates the eight Athmagunas goes directly to the Brahmaloka in which there is neither sorrow nor happiness.” 

“The Dharmasastras have prescribed rites to make us inwardly pure and impart us eight qualities. In this context, the sutras of Apasthamba and Gautama have a dominant place. They deal with the dharmas common to all people. Among the smrutis Manu's is the most important."

"The forty Samskaras which are meant to purify the individual self are: garbhdhana, pumsavana, simanta, jathakarma, namakarana, annaprasana, chaula, upanayana, the four rites like prajapatya, (vedavratas) performed during the gurukulavasa, (the years the celibate student spends in the home of his guru ), the ritual bath on completion of gurukulavasa, marriage, the five mahayajnas performed everyday by the householder. … Then, there are seven pakayajnas, seven haviryajnas and seven somayajnas, to be conducted by the householder. …"

(The Paramaguru then describes the various Samskaras and when they are to be performed. For details, I would refer the reader to the book-Vol.2 —Ramanan.)

"To put it differently: the five mahayajnas (brahmayajna, deavayajan, pitruyajna, manusyayjan, and bhutayajna) together with Agnihotra and Aupasana are to be performed everyday; darsa-purnamasa and sthalipaka once a fortnight; parvani sraddha once a month. The other yajnas are to be conducted once a year or at least once in a life time. …"


Samskaras to be done by Parents

"The Samskaras begin with Garbadhana, that is from the moment of conception [or more correctly, impregnation]. The 'sarira-pinda' must be performed to the chanting of mantras. People mistakenly think that the rites like Pumsavana and Simanta are meant for the mother. Actually, they are for the life taking place in her womb, the foetus, and are meant to purify it. One may not do the rite for oneself, but it is sinful to be negligent about those meant for another life. …"

"Where there should be delicacy in man-women relationship people act without any sense of shame after the fashion in the West. But, when it comes to performing Vedic rites in which the well being of the new life created is involved, they feel a sense of awkwardness. …"

"Garbadhana, Pumsavana, and Simanta are performed before the child is born. The sexual union of man and wife must be sanctified by mantras. Instead of being an act of animal passion, it is raised to the level of Samskara with the chanting of mantras; the purpose is the well being of the life to be formed. It is madness to give up such rituals without realizing the high principles inspiring them and, instead, thinking them to be 'uncivilized'. …"

"On the birth of a child, its jathakarma must be performed. Gifts must be given away. Namakarana  is on the eleventh day. Even this, the naming ceremony, has a purificatory purpose according to the sastras. …"

"When the child is six months old, it is time for its annaprasana. … In annaprasana (unlike garbadhana etc), even though the father chants the mantras, it is (obviously) the child that takes the anna or food."

"If the mother takes medicine, the baby is nourished, is it not? In the same way, the inner thoughts and feelings of the parents will affect the foetus and its character will be shaped accordingly. …"

"Chaula comes after annaprasana. It is meant for the sikha, which is essential to the conduct of all good rites. … Upanayana comes after Chaula. It is the first Samskara that a boy performs, chanting the mantras himself. Those conducted until this ceremony, are meant to protect the child from the evil influences arising from the sins committed by its parents. …"

"Any Samskara must be performed at the right time and by doing so, we are absolved of our sins. To wash away the papa earned by us in the past, we have to go through Samskaras in which our body, mind and speech are applied. …"

"[As the saying goes], the good done by the mother and father goes to protect their children. … Let us perform Samskaras for our sake and theirs (children)."

"Jathakarma, namakarana, annaprasana, and chaula are common to all jathis. Only Brahmins, Kshatriyas and Vaisyas have the Upanayana ceremony. There is nothing discriminatory about this nor there need be any quarrel over the same. People belonging to the fourth Varna do physical work to serve the world and in the process acquire inner purity. They will gain proficiency in their hereditary vocations only by learning them from their parents or grand parents. They do not require gurukulavasa over some twelve years [as in the case with Brahmins] nor do they have to learn the Vedas. …"

"None excels the sages in impartiality. They do not talk glibly like us of equality but they are truly egalitarian in outlook since they look upon all as one with Isvara. The conduct of the world’s affairs is such that it requires people with different vocations, doing different jobs and with different mental qualities in keeping with them. It is in conformity with these differences and dissimilarities that the sages assigned the Samskaras also differently to different people. There is no question of high or low among them."

….. pp 653-660 ibid

(With this, I conclude the Fourteen Abodes of Knowledge. – sgvr)

(Excerpts from the book entitled “Voice of God”-Vol 2, published by Sri Kanchi Mahaswamy Peetarohana Shatabdi Mahotsava Trust, Mumbai-2006 –pp-637-660) . (Italics, highlighting and underlining are mine-sgvr.)

Table of Contents




Chapter 15

The Four Upavedas


After concluding his lectures on the fourteen abodes of knowledge of the Hindu Religion, here, the Mahaswamy explains four other Vidyasthanas which are called Upavedas. The lecture on this subject is self explanatory. With these four included, the number of abodes of knowledge becomes eighteen.

(Though these are not strictly forming part of Veda Sastras, they are essential for our living in the world. Each one these four Vidhyasthanas has been so designed to protect the man form diseases and from enemies, relieve him from stress and tension and create a taste for arts necessary for atmakshema- SGVR)


“The fourteen abodes of knowledge are called Dharmastanas as they provide the basis for the Vedic religion which is Sanatana Dharma. They help in purifying the Athma. In addition, since they also mature the intellect and the mind, they have acquired the name Vidhyasthanam.”

“There are four other Sastras. They do not directly purify the Athma. They protect the body, nurture the intellect, appeal to the senses and give pleasure, etc. They are not Dharmasthanas but are Vidhyasthanas. These four are Ayurveda, Dhanurveda, Gandharvaveda and Arthasastra.”

“Out of these, Ayurveda is the Vaidyasastra (medical science). It is the Sastra which gives knowledge about the body, diseases and treatment for diseases.”

“Dhanurveda is meant to provide training to Kshatriyas (the Warriors) in the science of war. Here, the word Dhanus (bow) refers to all weapons. It provides knowledge about which weapons to use, when and how to protect the country.”

“Gandharvaveda is about music, dance and other acts. It provides us knowledge about the arts. It appeals to the senses and gives pleasure. All people need these for entertainment.  Out of the four Vidhyasthanas, this one help in the purification of the Athma if practiced as Nadhopasana (prayer through music) and practiced with Bhakti( devotion to God).”

“Arthasastra means the political science.  It particularly deals with state crafts. The four methods discussed in this are: The Sama, Dhana, Bedha and Dhanda ways of ruling a state. Of these, Bedha (divide and rule) and Dhanda (punishment) might seem very severe. However, these are unavoidable in practical life and permitted only in the context in governing a state.”

“All these four (Vidhyasthanas) are required more in practical day-to-day living than for spiritual life. The effects of all these are immediately evident. Diseases disappear when the medicine is administered. If weapons are destroyed, they hit the enemy. The pleasure of a musical recital or a dance performance is experienced. Benefits of Arthasastra in governing the state too are evident and are discussed in newspapers often.”

“The fourteen Dharmasastras meant for Athma do not give such tangible results. They are called Adhrishta Phala. Purification of the Athma cannot be seen directly. That Papa and Punya lead one to Swarga (heaven) cannot be seen immediately. Even if we see it we cannot show it to others and have them accept it. Even if the Devas (gods) are pleased with the Yajna and shower rains, only rains are visible and not the Deva.”

The fourteen Dharmasthanas are the ones most important for real and durable well being. The other four are just a means to these Fourteen. Because they indirectly help the Athma, these four have been given the prestigious name Upaveda. In reality, these have been created keeping in mind the practical necessities of the world and helping the Athma itself.”

“In addition to these eighteen, we have ancient sastras covering all of today’s sciences and arts without any exception. In Ayurveda itself we have physiology, zoology, botany, medical sciences and so on. People in several countries now accept that the concept of ‘zero’ and surgery came from India. After the advent of foreign rule, there was no motivation or support to do further research in the various arts. Only after that, we have become backward in science.”

(Excerpts from the book entitled “Voice of God”-Vol 2, published by Sri Kanchi Mahaswamy Peetarohana Shatabdi Mahotsava Trust, Mumbai-2006 –pp-781-787). (Italics, highlighting and underlining are mine-sgvr.)

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Chapter 16

Samanya Dharma

Dharmas Common to All : 1


In this and the next Chapter, I will present to you Mahaswamy’s exposition of the Dharma (code of conduct) to be followed by all, people of all divisions in our religion called Manu Dharma. To restrict the number of pages in each Chapter, I will be giving these Dharmas in two parts, but they should be read together. Every one of us should understand and practice them. They have to be inculcated in the minds of our children. If this is done, the nation (for that matter the entire world) would be a place of tranquility and peace.

(Compare here the eight Atma Gunas along with forty Samskaras given in Vedas referred to in an earlier Chapter. There is overlapping in some of the Gunas, which only serves to emphasize some particular aspects of Atma Guna. All the same, practice of these common Dharmas is essential for every human being. These are the essence of religious teaching meant for happy living and finally, emancipation.-sgvr)

 Dharmas Common to All

The mind is always in a state of agitation. All problems arise because of the mind. The desire that crops up in the mind is the cause for all the problems. It is not possible to tell the mind, ‘Do not desire’ and keep it still. The Mahaswamy, therefore, emphasizes the need for controlling our minds. This is what he says:

Controlling the Mind:

“We call some people mad and say that they do not have their mind under control. The fact is that all of us do it have control over the mind.”

"Do you know what it means to have mental control? Suppose you are suffering from severe pain. If you ask your mind not to feel the pain, it shall not feel it in obedience to you [that is you will not feel the pain.] Even if a tiger comes face to face with you and growls, you will feel no fear, if you ask your mind not to be afraid of the beast. Now you keep crying for no reason. If the mind is under control, we will keep smiling even if there is cause for much sorrow. And under the gravest provocation, it will not be roused to anger and will remain calm."

"First we must train our mind not to keep wandering. One way of doing it is to apply it to good activities. … The mind must be gathered together and made steady. It must be accustomed to think of noble and exalted objects like the Lord. Eventually, the very act of 'thinking' will cease and we will dissolve in Isvara to become Isvara."

Controlling the mind this way is called Yoga. A way has to be found to control the mind before death. Otherwise, there will be rebirth and there will be restless agitation of the mind. In this birth itself when there are several causes which led to desire and anger, we have to make whole hearted effort to control the mind right in the midst of these things. One who tries this way and becomes successful is ‘Yuktha’, otherwise known as ‘yogi’. Lord Krishna says that he is the real ‘suki’”

"There are two different ways of mastering the mind – the first is outward (bahiranga) and the second is inward (antaranga). We must have recourse to both. … The outward means consist, for example, of sandhyavandana, sacrifices, charity and so on. The best inward means is meditation. There are five inward (or antaranga) means to aid meditation. They are ahimsa (non-violence), satya (truthfullness), asteyam (non-stealing), sauca (cleanliness) and indriya-nigraha (subduing the senses, if not obliterating them.) …Ahimsa is not to have bad thoughts about anybody or anything and make the mind full of love. Satyam is to be true by thought, word and deed. Asteya is non-stealing-To be firm in mind not giving rise to desire for other people’s possessions. Saucham means purifying-Bathing, wearing clean clothes, taking clean food etc. Indriyanigraham  is not allowing the senses to have their own way and limit the food given to each sense organ-the eye should not see this; the ear should not hear this; the mouth should not eat this- the body should not indulge in this sin-, thus puttinga check is Indriyanigraham . Body is required for Sadhana (spiritual practices). The senses should be fed with just minimum that is necessary to keep the body alive. "


 "According to Manusmruti, ahimsa is the foremost among the dharma common to all. It is included in the yoga of mind control. Ahimsa means much more than what is meant by non-injury; it implies not doing harm to others even by thought or word. .. We must learn too think that all those who cause pain are like a child. If a person tries to hurt us, we must lovingly prevent him from doing so. We must not bear any ill-will against him nor think of retaliating. This is true ahimsa. … Many great men, many yogins, have stated that they were able to control their minds by adhering to the true ahimsa. When we practice ahimsa, anger will naturally give way; the mind will become clear and will easily be controlled. … If a person is able to achieve the practice of total Ahimsa by mind, speech and body, without his effort, every creature that comes before him will itself become Ahimsa personified. ….. (Thus) the minds of even cruel people will be transformed in the presence of men practicing utter ahimsa. …"

" 'Ahimsa parmo dharmaha' (Non violence is the supreme dharma). Buddhism and Jainism impose total non-violence on their followers. Not so our religion except in the case of ascetics. (The Swamiji gives a detailed account of the Ahimsa to be practiced by a Sanyasi. –he is not allowed to pluck a leaf from a plant, not to cook or cause fire lest some insects would fall a prey. Since he does not perform rituals with fire, his body is not consigned to flame after death, but buried in the earth.-sgvr)

“In Hinduism an exception to the general dharma of non-violence is made in the case of righteous or just war and in a sacrifice in which sometimes animals are killed. … If a religion makes the practice of non-violence universally applicable, there will be problems. Obviously, all cannot practice it all times. … When a principle is imposed only on a few, since it is difficult to make it universal, it becomes an ideal to others to whom it may not formally apply; they try to practice it as far as they can. (Thus), following the example of Sannyasins, Brahmins, Vaisnavas in regions like Gujarat and Saivas in the South practice Ahimsa. Without being bound by any sastric injunction, they have voluntarily adopted the principle and practiced it from generation to generation. Influenced by the sattva guna of ascetics, these communities have become vegetarians on their own. And following their example and without being compelled to do so, other castes too abstain from meat on days like the new moon, on the day of sraddha, and days sacred to various deities."

“The code of Ahimsa has been included in the ordinary Dharmas so that it will at least be an ideal for everyone. Whatever may be the nature of the deed, there should be no enmity at our heart. This is the definition of Ahimsa according to our Vedic Dharma.”

Satyam (Truthfullness)

Of the general Dharmas (code of conduct) required to be followed by all people, the first is Ahimsa. Next is Satyam (Tuthfullness)

"Truthfulness means mind and speech being well integrated. The wise say that speech being at variance with the mind is untruthfulness. …If we conduct ourselves contradicting the mind and speech, in our next birth, God will take away the power of speech, i.e., he will give us an animal life.  …….. Truthfulness is not merely accord between mind and speech. It means voicing good thoughts, thoughts that are beneficial and are liked by people. All that does ill is untruthfulness.”

“It is not enough that you speak to a man what is good for him. You must speak with affection and the one to whom your words are addressed must find them acceptable. If you speak harshly, nobody will listen to you even if you mean well. Words that serve no purpose do not constitute a truth. Your speech must be beneficial and, at the same time, capable of bringing happiness to the man to whom it is addressed. …(Thus), thought and speech must be in accord; the mind must be serene; and the words spoken must be pleasing, that is what is spoken must be good to the speaker as well as the listener. This is truthfulness."

“ ‘Speak Sathyam. Speak what is agreeable. If Sathyam too cannot be said in an agreeable way, then do not speak that Sathyam. Even if something is agreeable to hear, do not say if it is untruth.’ These are the words of our great men. Such benevolent and agreeable speech will not come from a mind full of lust and anger. If speech that is Sathyam and benevolence has to come, a good mind devoid of lust and anger is the basic requirement. ….. To sum up, it is what gives purity to one’s mind and does good to others.

"For a man rooted in truth, there is an avantara prayojana, an incidental benefit, gained from his speech. Since such a person habitually speaks the truth, his words will become the truth. … If unwittingly or out of ignorance, he commits an error while speaking, the error will turn out to be the truth.

(Here Mahaswamy quotes the example of Abhirami Bhattar in Thirukkadavur, Tamil Nadu. He was a great devotee of the presiding deity Goddess Abhirami and used to be always in a state of deep meditation and ecstasy.  When he was asked by the ruling King, in his state of ecstasy, Abhirami Bhattar called the Amavasya (New Moon Day) as Pournami (Full Moon day). This enraged the King. To help her devotee to come out of this unwitting error, and make the king realize the greatness of the Abhirami Bhattar , Ambal (Goddess Abhirami), threw her thadangam (ear ring like disk) in the sky and made it shine like a Full Moon.- sgvr)

(Compare here Thiruvalluvar’s definition of Truth as given in my Thirukkural Chapter.  It will be interesting to find similar thoughts expressed by the two great saints who lived two thousand years apart.- sgvr)

Sesame (Thil Seeds) and Water

 "All humans must express their gratitude to their fathers (pitrus) and to the Gods – they have a debt to pay to their fathers, rites to perform for the Gods. … We must treat our parents with respect and do all we can to keep them in comfort. We cannot make sufficient recompense for all the sacrifices they make on our behalf. After they depart from this world, we must, without fail, offer libations (tharpanam) to them and perform the sraddha ceremony, all in the sastric manner. Though they ridicule the idea of performing sraddha, even reformers are agreed that we must care for our parents."

"Offering libations to one's fathers is similar to the telegraphic money order reaching the addressee. If this rite is performed according to the sastras, whatever has been prescribed by the Sastras such as thil (Sesamum), plantain etc., are offered here, they will be converted suitably by Pithru Devatas (deities) and given to Pithrus as the food required in their new birth. If the fathers are reborn as cows, the offering made to them will be taken to them in the form of grass or hay. The deities in charge carry out the orders of the Paramatman. So, the father or the mother whose sraddha is performed need not personally come to receive the offering. What is important is a sense of gratitude to our fathers and faith in the sastras.Sraddham itself means what is performed with shraddha (interest and involvement). Sraddha is important and it has to be done according to the rules laid down there for.  "

(To be continued)

(Excerpts from the book entitled “Voice of God”-Vol 1, published by Sri Kanchi Mahaswamy Peetarohana Shatabdi Mahotsava Trust, Mumbai-2006 –pp-217-230) . (Italics, highlighting and underlining are mine-sgvr.)

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Chapter 17

Samanya Dharma

Dharmas Common to All : 2

In this Chapter, I continue Mahaswamy’s exposition of the Dharmas to be followed by all, people of all divisions in our religion as prescribed in Manusmruti. (I need not remind here, that they have to be inculcated in the minds of our children to make our nation a land of tranquility and peace. –sgvr)


 "Every family must perform Puja to Isvara. Those who find it convenient to do so may conduct elaborate types of Puja after receiving proper initiation into the. Others need perform only a brief Puja, not lasting more than ten minutes or so. Office-goers must offer at least this brief worship. The sacred bell must ring in every home. Images must be installed to worship Siva, Amba, Vinayaka and Surya. This is called 'Pancayatana Puja', (which) was revived by Sankara Bhagavatpada. As the creator of Sanmata system (the worship of six deities) he added Subramhmanya to the five."

"Not much effort is needed for the Puja. If you have the will, it could be performed wherever you happen to be. One need not worry if flower is not available for archana. Dried Bilva and Thulasi leaves can be used for archana to Lord Siva and Vishnu. The other deities can be offered archana with akshathai….. Wherever clean food is not available, dried grapes can be kept in stock for offering as Naivedyam.

At home when you do the Puja, you have to present to the deities cooked rice called 'maha-naivedya'. The Lord has created the entire cosmos for our sake. All that gives us joy, all that is beneficial in creation, must be offered to the Lord [symbolically] before being partaken by us.”

“' The entire Puja is meant to purify our thoughts and He is in no way affected. Naivedana' does not mean making the Lord really eat. … 'Naivedayami' means 'I am making it known to you (announcing it) and it does not mean 'I am feeding you.' … The lord has created variety of objects for enjoyment and has given us the sense organs to enjoy them. Therefore, whatever we enjoy has to be first offered to Him and not doing this would be tantamount to thieving."

"He who is present everywhere must be present where we want him to be present so that he may be grasped by us. Whatever the material out of which his image or symbol is made – stone earth or copper – he will come to us in that material and in that image or symbol. He will do so out of his compassion and he has the power to do so.."


 "Every morning a handful of rice (uncooked) must be set apart for the poor. All families must do this without fail everyday. This rice must be collected, cooked, offered to the deity of the local temple as Naivedya and then distributed to the poor. With the handful of rice set apart for the poor, keep just one paisa also. … Since the food is first offered as Naivedya, it would mean that the poor will take it as prasada which will impart them inner purity."

"Annadana or the gift of food is one kind of service or paropakara. …How do we purify our body? -By exerting ourselves in the service of others. As we keep serving people in this way, we will attain inner purity. When all take part in digging a pond or well, without any differences, without one man feeling superior to another or inferior to him, our ego too will be dug away. More than the water welling up in the pond is the love welling up from the hearts. No outward show is needed in social service; we must not make an exhibition of our work. … We must try to please the Lord with the very hands and feet that he has given us – we must do so by serving others and by looking upon all as Himself."

"There is nothing that makes a man more fortunate than the opportunity he has of serving others. … We must learn to help people who are not our kin – other families, our village or home town, our nation, indeed of all mankind. … We must not worry about how others will benefit from our work, but consider how we will become naturally pure. Also, we must think of the happiness we will experience by serving our fellow men."

"Service should not be confined to mankind but must be extended to the animal kingdom. … Every one must feed at least one cow everyday with a handful of grass. This is called 'GoGrasam' and this act is extolled in the sastras."

"Among the various incarnations of the Lord, the service rendered to humanity was the greatest in that of Krsna. During the Avatara of Rama, Anjaneya appeared as seva (service) personified. We see in the example of Lord Krisna that there was none who had played so much and rendered service to people as much as He had done. Apart from service relating to worldly matters, He rendered also jnana seva-service in the form of giving knowledge. We must be inspired by their example [of Krsna and Hanuman] as we work for others; we must be unselfish like them and shun publicity. … We must regard any day on which we fail to do any service to others as a day of impurity. Paramesvara is the father of all creatures. By serving our fellow men, we serve the Lord."

No Harm even to Creatures

 "To sustain ourselves, we cause hurt to so many creatures. We take pride in keeping our house clean but we forget that every household is a butchery. According to Dharmasastras, it is not one butchery but five butcheries together. (Here Paramaguru explains the five different type of butcheries in our homes and says that though plants also have life, vegetarians do not harm them as mostly they eat only their fruits and vegetables produced by them or grains produced in paddy fields which normally would have perished even if humans do not pluck and eat them: –Ramanan.)

“We must not cause harm even to those creatures that hurt us. But, we cause pain to, or kill, even harmless creatures. It is sad to think that to live, to sustain ourselves, we have to keep hurting so many living things. But, it all seems unavoidable. We do not kill deliberately. There is an expatiation for the sin committed unwittingly. It is the ‘Prayascitta' of 'Vaisvadeva'. We perform this function to ask the Lord to forgive our sin of having caused the destruction of various creatures and to pray for their happiness in after life. Vaisvadeva is meant for the excommunicated and for all creatures of earth like dogs, crows, insects, all. This rite absolves us of many a sin. …"

Fault Finding

 "… 'Do not magnify the fault of others,' say the wise. 'But if there is something good about a man speak appreciatively about it.' … Pointing a finger at the faults of others or exaggerating them in speech and writing has become the practice today. The more learned a man is the more eager he is to find fault with others. … If you think a person has drawbacks, you must speak to him about them in a friendly manner [so that he may correct himself] but not constantly harp on them and expose them to the outside world. We must be worthy enough to speak about the fault of others and we cannot take upon ourselves the role of an adviser when we need to correct ourselves. Advice given by us then would become counterproductive. …"

"If we praise a person for his good qualities he will have greater enthusiasm to cultivate them further. But there should be a restraint in praise too – praise indeed is a tricky thing. That is why the wise say: 'Isvara and the Guru’  alone may be praised directly. Friends and relatives, instead of being praised to their face, must be spoken of well to others. You may praise a servant after he has carried out the job entrusted to him. (It is like patting a horse after a ride.) You may never praise your son

 "When we intensely desire an object we try to get it by fair or foul means. It is a deadly enemy, desire: its eggs us on to commit sins. Equally deadly is anger. When we fail to get the object of our desire we turn our anger against the man who, we believe, was an obstacle. Unfulfilled desire becomes an anger. … The attack we believe we make on others in our anger is actually an attack we make on ourselves – and we are hurt more than those we wanted to hurt. When we are angry our whole body shakes. Anger indeed causes pain both in the body and the mind and we make ourselves ugly when we are angry."

"Kama or desire flares up like fire. The more it is fed, the more it becomes hungry. Indeed kama blackens our mind. When a desire is gratified there is joy for the moment, but soon it goes in search of more 'food' and in that process we lose our peace of mind and happiness and become victims of sorrow and anger."

"Sorrow and anger are two forms of unrequited desire. If we think that those who are a hindrance to the gratification of our desire are inferior to us, we turn our anger against them, and if we think that they are superior, all we do is to grieve within ourselves. Anger is packed with more evil power than even desire. … A little thought will convince us that we are not in the least qualified to be angry with anybody or to shout at anybody. We are even guiltier than those against whom we turn in our anger. We know this in our hearts. Even if we are guiltless, before we rush to find fault with someone, we must ask ourselves whether we would not have committed the offense we think he is guilty of were we placed in the same circumstances as he. We must try our best to keep anger always at a distance."

"The sastras proclaim that the first step towards Atmic improvement is to sever ourselves from evil people and to seek the company of virtuous men. But there is no point looking upon sinners with hatred or anger. All we can and must do is to pray that they turn to the path of virtue. … Why do people sin? The reason must be their mental condition and the circumstances in which they are placed. If we happen to be free from any guilt, it must be because we are more favoured by circumstances. When you see a sinner, you must pray: 'O Ambika, I too might have sinned like him. But, in your mercy you did not give me the occasion to do so. Be merciful to him in the same way.'"

"We must not be angry with a man even if he bears ill-will against us. … The question arises: may we direct our anger against others when we are free from all sins? Were we truly sinless, we would be all love and affection. Where is then the question of our being angry with anyone? Even towards a sinner, we should have then no feeling other than that of love. On the other hand, if we are guilty of wrong doings ourselves, we have no right to be angry with those we think are sinners. Anger, in any case has no place in our life. … The natural dharma of a man is to be loving and affectionate. And to be loving and affectionate is to be ever in bliss. Love is Sivam, it is said. We must always learn to attain the condition that is Sivam."

Love and Sorrow:

"The purpose of human birth is to live a life full of love for all. No joy is greater than that of loving others. Amassing wealth, acquiring property, earning fame, bedecking oneself give but transient pleasure, not any sense of fullness. The happiness that permeates our inner being is the happiness of loving others. When we love others we are not conscious of our suffering, the physical exertion we make and the money we spend. A life in which there is no love for others is a life lived in vain."

"The greater our love for a person the more intense our grief when he or she is separated from us forever. … [The problem then is]: Our love for others ends in sorrow. …

 (There is an apparent contradiction here. On the one hand, Mahaswami suggests that we should love one and all. Later on, he says that it will bring sorrow if the object we love is separated from us, (which is inevitable). Does this mean that we should cease to love people lest it might bring sorrow on separation?  To this he gives a solution. - See below -sgvr)

 [The solution is that] we must create such love as will never change, love that will be enduring. The object of our love must never become separated from us, never desert us. (The One Object is Paramatman, which) will never be separated from us. Even if our life departs, it will dissolve in Paramatman and become one with him. Only that love is everlasting which is dedicated to Him. (Paramatman)."

"If our love for the Supreme Being keeps growing, the truth will dawn on us that there is no one or nothing other than Him. All those whom we loved, all those who caused us sorrow by being separated from us, they too will seem to us as the imperishable Supreme Being. We must console ourselves that onl the body which was the disguise of the Paramatman has perished, that the one who was in that disguise has become united with the Paramatman. Our love then will be everlasting. We must first learn to have such love for Isvara and for people of goodness, for men of God. Then, step by step, we must enlarge it to embrace all creation. In this way the purpose of life will be fulfilled."

"True love knows neither reason nor motive. [We love a man truly], when our affection for him is unchanging and unwavering – we love him even if he does not apparently move closely with us or does not seem to possess inward qualities or the capacity to bless us; we love him even when we do not have any selfish interest to be served by him. Does anyone possess such love? Yes, only One. It is Isvara – he alone has such love. God loves us for no reason. … We must learn to have such love as is revealed through Paramesvara; that is love that is universal, love that is not based on any reason or interest. …"

"We must, to start with, learn to have disinterested love for an individual,  that is, love that is not tainted by self-interest. Eventually, this love will permeate us, inspire our inner being, and we will then be able to enlarge it to embrace all. … If our love is manifested in this manner there will be fullness, tranquility and bliss.”

(Compare here Thiruvalluvar’s chapter on “Anbu”-Love. The poet proclaims that there is no gate valve for ANBU. “Anbirkkumundo Adaikkum Thaazh?” Once it begins to pour, you cannot stop it; it is uncontrollable and does not expect returns. He also says: Those who do not have love (ANBU) in their mind live only for themselves.  Those who have love (ANBU) in their hearts will give their very bones for helping others.)

(Excerpts from the book entitled “Voice of God”-Vol 1, published by Sri Kanchi Mahaswamy Peetarohana Shatabdi Mahotsava Trust, Mumbai-2006 –pp-231-256) . (Italics, highlighting and underlining are mine-sgvr.)

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Chapter 18


From Outward Karma to Inward Meditation

The Mahaswamy has been taking pains to explain the need for rituals and actions (work), several times in the course of his lectures (see Chapter 7); he has pointed  out to us that work is not the goal but means to it. This Chapter presents Mahaswamy’s thoughts on the divine experience of Dhyana and Meditation and a State of ‘worklessness’.

As he says: Dhyana or meditation is the state of being absorbed in the Paramatman, a state of non-doing.  He explains the state of quietitude of Daksinamurti and how to achieve it. While Inward Meditation and Dhyana are the ultimate means to experience the Truth, this can be practiced only through cleaning the mind first and removing it altogether. This process can be achieved only in stages, gradually, through various rituals prescribed in our Sastras.

Swamiji’s explanations on this subject are so lucid that it is not difficult to read and assimilate them. The ‘workless’ state is the ultimate stage of experiencing bliss and not mere passive and blank expressions or stillness of mind. In that final stage of ‘worklessness’, as Swamiji  points out, when the mind itself is ‘driven out’,  what remains is blissful experience with full awareness.

Swamiji also refers here to Sankara’s Advaitha philosophy of non-dualistic state. (This will be given in a Chapter in greater detail later.)

From Work to Worklessness

(Before proceeding to highlight the need for work, Swamiji talks about the Dhyana and Meditation which are the ultimate means to being one with Paramatman.-sgvr)

Dhyana or Meditation

“The world is a manifestation of Paramatman and so must be we too. We must remove the mirror called the mind and experience the truth within us that we are none other than the Paramatman. That is what is called meditation. All the work we do ought to finally lead to worklessness, to the meditation of the Atman. The goal of all the sacraments I speak about is this.”

“… The supreme ‘comfort’ or happiness is worklessness.  Dhyana or meditation is the state of being absorbed in the Paramatman, a state of non-doing. … The ultimate goal of meditation is Samadhi in which we are fully conscious of the great bliss experienced by us. If we teach ourselves to remain in a state of non-doing within (inside ourselves) we will experience tranquility even though we keep working outwardly. The inner peace will never be disturbed.”


“Thee quietitude of Daksinamurti is the bliss of knowingness. It is not the same as still during sleep. In sleep, there is no voluntary control of the mind; the mind becomes still because of exhaustion. …Death too is a kind of sleep. In it too, the mind is stilled. But with rebirth when the individual self becomes incarnate, the mind starts to be active again. If we learn to control the mind voluntarily, it will remain in that state. Though Daksinamurti remains still without doing anything, he is full of awareness. … The Daksinamurti who remains still is the one who dances the dance of bliss, who destroys the demon Tripura and who keeps roaming as a mendicant. After granting boons to his devotees he goes from place to place. He is still inwardly but is in frenzy outwardly. …”

(Having explained the concept of meditation and quietitude, Swamiji points out the need for work for cleansing the mind, before attempting Dhyana and Meditation. –sgvr)

Means to Practice Meditation & Rituals

“We are the opposite of Daksinamurti. We don the disguise of non-detachment in order to make others believe that we are at peace with ourselves, but we remain all the time agitated. Outwardly calm is the first step towards inward stillness – and this stillness is to be brought about in degrees and will not be gained all at once. … We shall do so only when our mind is cleansed. That is why so many rituals are described to purify the mind, the consciousness. It means that, instead of asking us not to do this and that, we are asked to do (perform) this and that rite. It is natural for us to be involved in some work or other. So, without any regard to our personal likes and dislikes, we perform the rites laid down in the Sastras. Even here, our personal likes and dislikes will intrude but, unlike in the matter of meditation, we succeed to some extent in curbing them during the conduct of the rites. In due course, desire and hatred will be reduced and the mind will become pure. With the mind cleansed we will be able to perform one pointed meditation. … If we are able to meditate with utter one-pointedness then, everything will acquire the character of Paramatman. There will be no need to leave everything and depart to forest. … Both work and meditation are Paramatman.”

“It may seem that the rituals, the Puja to Parameswara and the service done to fellow men are meant for ‘others’. But, in truth they are meant for ourselves. By helping others, by serving them, by worshipping Lord, we are rewarded with a sense of fullness. … In serving others we may have to undergo hardships, make sacrifices and exert ourselves physically. But the happiness and the sense of fullness we obtain is far greater compared to the trouble taken by us. … According to the Upanishadic teaching of Yajnavalkya, it is for our own inner contentment that we love others. …”

“To go in search of money, fame and sensual pleasure, thinking them to be good, is to blacken our mind. What is good for us? –That which is good for the world – and it is but a form of Paramatman. This truth is known to our inner being; we realize it deep in our mind. That is why we find greater fulfillment in doing good for others, unmindful of all difficulties, than in finding comforts for ourselves.”

“In the Gita, The Lord exhorts Arjuna to practice Svadharma – in the case of Arjuna, it means waging war. The Lord propounds the yoga of meditation in which there is no ‘doing’. He refers to the example of Janaka who was all the time working for the welfare of his people but at the same time remained in the ultimate meditation called Brahma-nistha. …”

“Briefly put, this is the concept of Bhagavatpada: ultimately everything (the phenomenal world) will be seen to be Maya. The One Object, the One and Only Reality, is the Brahman. We must be one with It, non-dualistically, without our having to do anything in the same way as Brahman. I, who bears the name of Sankara, keep speaking about many rites, about puja, japa, service to fellow men, etc. It is because in our predicament we have to start with rites. In this way, step by step, we will proceed to the liberation that is non-dualistic. It is this method of final release that is taught to us by Sri Krsna Paramatman and by our Bhagavatpada. At first karma, works, then upasana or devotion and, finally, the enlightenment called Jnana. …”

“To start with, let karma, devotion and meditation be practiced together. These are not opposed to one another but are complimentary. In the end, all will drop off one by one and the Samadhi of dhyana alone will remain….We must not dismiss rituals as meaningless or as part of superstition. We must keep performing them. It is only when our impurities are washed away, thus we will realize the self luminous Reality in us.”

(In the following paragraph, the Saint emphasizes the importance of good conduct and character, a pre-requisite to cleaning the mind-sgvr)

Character and Good Conduct

 “Character is acquired and good qualities possessed by living according to the precepts of the Vedas and Sastras and by following the good customs practiced by our forefathers as well as by performing the rites that have been passed down to us. Good conduct springs from a good mind. So the mind must be free from evil. … That is why the Sastras lay down rules to keep us involved in good works. When we are conducting religious rites we must have no ego-feeling. The preceptors have shown us the path to consecrate our karma to Isvara. The Lord has given us not only the strength to perform them but also the intelligence and the means. Even a little ego-sense would be ruinous because it is capable of taking many disguises and of seizing us at an unwary moment.The mind, the consciousness, is like a mirror. The Supreme Being is the only Truth. When there are no evil thoughts in us, the mind-mirror will also be clean. If it is fixed on a single object it will remain steady – like a mirror that does not shake. Only then will the Paramatman be reflected in it.”

(In the following paragraph, Mahaswamy tells us that severing attachment is necessary for peace and attainment of our goal (purpose) of life; he also tells us how to achieve this. He beautifully compares the stages of life to that of ripening of fruit-sgvr)

Meaning of Worldly Existence

 “… ‘What is the purpose of my birth? Why was I born?’ You must ask yourselves this question again and again. You must have also some concern about whether you will reach the goal of your birth. … The mellow or ripe fruit is full of sweetness. [The sweetness has come in stages.] The flower was bitter, the tender fruit was astringent, the unripe fruit was sour and the fruit that is mellow now is sweet. Peace means sweetness. When there is peace, all attachments sever themselves. When the heart is all sweetness all attachments disappear. There is attachment only so long as there is sourness. … When the sweetness is full, all the ties will be snapped and the fruit will drop to earth by itself. … Similarly, step by step, a man must become wholly sweet like a mellow fruit and free himself happily from the tree of Samsara, the cycle of births and deaths. Desire, anger, and so on, are stages in our development like bitterness, astringency, sourness and sweetness in the growth of the fruit.”

When we are subject to urges like desire and anger, we will not be able to free ourselves fully from them. But, we must keep asking ourselves why we became subject to these urges and passions. We must constantly wonder whether they serve any purpose. If we do not remain vigilant about them, we will become victims of their deception.”

“There must be astringency when it is time for astringency and sourness when it is time for sourness. But, neither astringency nor sourness must remain a permanent state. … If we make an effort at an inappropriate time [if we force ourselves] it will be making the fruit prematurely ripe. Such a fruit will not taste sweet.”

“We should not, however, remain always in the same state as the one in which we find ourselves today, indifferent to everything. At the same time, when our bag of sins is still to be emptied, we cannot thirst for Supreme knowledge. Instead, let us keep doing our duty hoping that we will realize the Supreme knowledge, if not now, after many a birth. Let us adhere to the Dharma prescribed by the Vedas. If we do so, we will proceed gradually to the supreme jnana. Now, we are aware of only outward matters and outward disguises. So, let us start with the outward rites of our religion and the outward symbols and signs. By degrees then let us go to the inner Reality through the different stages – from that of the tender fruit to the fruit that is mellow and sweet.”

“… Some people hold the view that all that is needed is conduct and character, that conduct is a matter of the mind, that all religious customs [like symbols e.g., holy ashes, rudraksha, thiruman] are but part of the external life. In truth, however, your outward actions and symbols worn by you outwardly have an impact on the inner life. There is a relationship between bodily work and inner feelings. … Based on this fact, the wise have devised yogic postures that are calculated to nurture particular Atmic qualities. … Will soldiers be less valorous if they do not wear their uniforms? It is claimed that uniforms keep them fighting fit and inspire courage in them. [Similarly], the symbols worn outside, the samskaras performed outwardly, are inwardly beneficial. …By performing rituals, we will acquire one-pointedness of mind, discipline, non-attachment, will power, humility. On the whole, it will help us to live a moral life. Without moral conduct there can never be Atmic inquiry and Atmic experience. …”

“If rituals are not necessary for true Atmic knowledge, even thurti called the Isvara is not necessary for the same. But, we can dispense with rituals and Isvara only when we reach a high plane of knowledge. At first Isvara is very much necessary for our inward journey and there are many reasons for it. I will tell you one thing. We need an entity that exemplifies all that is good. Have we not for ages together thought of Isvara as such one, one who represents all virtues and all auspicious qualities? When we mention the word ‘Isvara’ we at once think of him as one without any evil. If anything or anyone combines beauty, compassion, power and enlightenment to the full it must be Isvara. It is a psychological principle that we become that which we keep thinking of. By meditating on Isvara’s manifold auspicious qualities, our own undesirable qualities will give place to good ones.”

“There are many benefits that flow from rituals, puja etc. One of them is that they help us to make us good persons. They are also of value in taking us to the path of workless yoga and the inward quest. … [So,] let us wear the signs that remind us of the Supreme truth. Let us perform the rites that keep away from evil. Let us be of good conduct and character and cleanse our consciousness. And let us meditate on Ultimate Reality, experience it inwardly, realize bliss.”

(The following paragraph gives Swamiji’s explanation of Karmayoga and Lord Krishna’s Nishkamya Karma. –sgvr)

KarmaPeople usually think that yoga means no more than controlling the breath and sitting stone-like. The literal meaning is ‘joining’ or ‘uniting’. … If we are joined to an object without the least possibility of separating from it, it is yoga in the true sense. The root of the minds of all of us is the one Paramatman. Yogins control their breath to turn their mind to this prime object.”

What we normally understand to be pleasure in a worldly sense is truly sorrow. All experiences that create separation from Paramatman are sorrow. … To make the mind pure is to train it in one-pointedness. This is the means of yogic perfection. To start with, all will not be able to control their breath like yogins. If we are absorbed in a worthy subject, in some good work, our mind will remain untainted to some extent. … Performing sacrifices, observing fasts and vows, building great temple towers, digging ponds, etc., were a means in the past to cleanse the mind by making it one-pointed. In the midst of such good work also one experiences difficulties, even humiliation, but one should not be daunted by criticism or obstacles. This itself becomes the means of mental purification. Then comes pranayama, meditation, etc.”

“Sri Krsna Paramatman gives an answer to Arjuna in the Bhagavatgita {to the question whether it is sin to wage war and slay friends and relatives in battle}. An action that outwardly seems to be bad and cruel need not be necessarily sinful. Acts that apparently cause pain to others may have to be committed for the good of the world and there is no sin in them. … Only such deeds that are motivated by desire and hatred can be sin. … It is for our benefit as well as for the world’s, says Sri Krsna, that we must live according to the tenets of the Sastras. When there is neither desire nor hatred, there will be nothing unpleasant about any kind of work. One can then be always happy doing one’s allotted work.”

The reason for desire and hatred is ego-feeling, ahamkara. When there is no ego-sense, considerations of high and low, or inferior or superior, will be found to be meaningless. We will keep doing our work happily as a matter of duty and thus also contribute to the world’s happiness. The Karmayoga thought given in the Gita is doing one’s work without ahamkara, in a spirit of dedication to the Lord. This tradition of desireless action that purifies our inner being has existed in this land from the Vedic period. Sri Krsna Paramatman presents it to us as a boon encased in a handy casket. … So, as Krsna Paramatman says, all our actions must be founded on the Sastras. If everybody acts with equal love for all and with a pure heart there will be neither any rivalry nor any quarrel in society. The world will then be filled with joy.”

(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 679-695) . (Italics, highlighting and underlining are mine-sgvr.)

Go Top to Contents of Part II

( … continued in Part III)