Indian Roots


Written by

Kadambi Srinivasan

Published by

Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams Tirupati




Kadambi Srinivasan

T.T.D. Religious Publications Series No.1181 © All Rights Reserved

First Print : 2015 Re-print : 2019


Published by

Sri Anil Kumar Singhal, I.A.S.,

Executive Officer,

Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams, Tirupati.


Office of the Editor-in-chief, TTD,Tirupati.

Printed at

Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams Press Tirupati – 517 507.


A book takes good structure when the author puts his ideas in a proper, sequential and standard way. Here is a book for readers of all ages which enhances the thirst to know about the Indian’s Ancient living and their contributions to the fields of Philosophy, Mathematics, Astronomy, Medicine, Surgery, Plastic sur- gery, Veterinary science, Economics, Political science, Education, Literature, Poetry, Drama, so on and soforth. Our ancestors had a unique and distinct iden- tity in the fields of Medicine, Mathematics, Geometry, Astronomy and Logic. The entire world has accepted that the Indian civilization and its literature dates back to the earliest period of History. Inspite of this, Indians are ignoring the original quality and quantity of the ‘Medha’ or ‘Intellect’ of their ancestors. A friend shot a question to the author about “What have the Indians been doing?” To counteract the oral question the author has answered in a factual written form- “I chose to unfold the various facets of Vedic culture including their literature, their philoso- phy, their learning etc. The entire book has been written with that question in focus”.

The author has compiled the information collected from different sources from the time of Vedas to 15th Century A.D. Inspite of such an industrious study, the author humbly says that this book represents just the tip of an iceberg. He also states that there is a large scope for an extensive indepth research in this context. He submissively opines that- ‘A pride should be apparent on every Indian’s face befitting our cultural background. The Author’s statement influences my senses to thinkover it. His valuable ideas are appreciable. I am immensely happy to bring this book to the vision of the public. I also urge the readers to think widely to imple- ment certain ideas as a supplement to their life style, because India’s glory has attracted the entire world and it is on its journey even today.

The author, belonging to the field of Physics and Instrumentation has put forth his best knowledge related to Philosophy and Theism. I wish him all the best and also hope that his dreams come true.

In the service of lord venkateswara

Executive Officer,

Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams, Tirupati.

About the book

Work on this book started almost eight years back during the winter of 2006. I was having tea with a group of my friends at Chennai. The conversations slowly turned towards ancient civilizations. A friend of mine had just returned after a holiday in Egypt. He was very impressed with what he saw and what he heard. He told us about the Pharaonic antiquities and the treasures of King Tutankhamen. Suddenly he turned to all of us listening to him and shot a question – in contrast what have the Indians been doing?

I felt as if he has slapped us. What have the Indians done? Sitting on their hands?

Where shall I begin? Their contributions in Philosophy, literature, poetry, drama, education, Mathematics, Astronomy, Medicine, Surgery, Plastic surgery, Veteri- nary science, Economics, Political science – the list just goes on.

Gone is the old idea of an Aryan invasion. In its place, the world is accepting a continuity of Indian civilization and its literature dating back to the earliest period of history. The work done by the ancient Indian scholars in the fields of Medicine, mathematics, geometry, Astronomy and logic are being recognized to be among the earliest the world has seen. While trying to answer the question of “what have the Indians being doing?” I decided not to go by a statistical route. Plenty of information to engage in a lively argument is already available. I believe, that the way in which we visualize any particular thing is based on the outlook we entertain in respect of that thing. Usually we do not have a comprehensive idea of most of the things in this world. When we think about a subject we regard it with some blinkers limiting our vision of that subject, whereby we tend to ignore other aspects which also go to have a strong bearing on the subject. While trying to answer the question “what have the Indians been doing”, to get a more comprehensive idea, I chose to unfold the various facets of Vedic culture including their literature, their philosophy, their learning etc. The entire book has been written with that question in focus.

Slowly, the world has started accepting the Indian civilization to be the earliest leading the rest of the world in spiritual, material and scientific progress.

“India was the motherland of our race, and Sanskrit the mother of Europe’s languages; she was the mother of our philosophy; mother through Arabs of much of our mathematics; mother through Buddha of ideals embodied in Christianity; mother through village community, of self-government and democracy; mother India is in many ways is the mother of us all.” – Will Durant; American Historian (1885-1981)


What I could present in this book represents just the tip of an iceberg. Will Durant was correct in stating that India was the mother, not just of philosophy, but a majority of other subjects as well. India’s glory was not like a wick that shone for brief period and then got extinguished. It shone for thousands of years shedding light on a number of subjects. In fact, the knowledge it spread, in many instances, was not limited to people within the boundary of Bharat Varsha, but to the entire world. Bhagavad Gita is a typical example. The concept of zero in the counting of numbers is another. And there are many others as well.

In this book I tried to present available information from different sources. The period covered included from the time of the Vedas up to the 15th century AD. Greatest challenge faced was in fixing the dates. More work needs to be done by our scholars in this context.

During ancient times the teaching was done at the Ashrams of the sage. These Ashrams were located far away from the cities. Students, all Brahmacharins, lived at the Ashrams. Subjects were not taught in modules or by a semester system. Typically, the students were taught eighteen Vidyas –Four Vedas, six Vedangas, two Mimamsas, one Nyaya and one Puranas / other scriptures; Along with this, four other vidyas are also taught. Ayurveda (1); Dhanurveda (1); Gandharva Veda (1); Artha Shastra (1). This brings the total of vidyas taught equal to 18. It is my wish to bring about in this book, if not entirely (some of the vidyas were not touched upon, to keep the book within reasonable size), an atmosphere of com- prehensive learning available at the Guru Kulas in ancient India.

I don’t believe the aberration that my friend suffered was an isolated case. It has to be accepted that the knowledge of general public regarding our literature, our contributions has thinned out. I am not for a moment suggesting that the cur- rent education / knowledge should be replaced by ancient learning. On the con- trary, the current learning should supplement what we have achieved over the many years. A pride should be apparent on every Indian’s face befitting our cultural background.

I hope this book serves to remind the readers of our contributions in different fields

Kadambi Srinivasan June 2014.




Projects of any type are seldom solo efforts. Writing a book has entered into this category. Behind the name of the author stand a team of individuals, some of them technical experts, trying to make the book an acceptable product. In this case it is no different.

My immediate advisors are from my own family – my wife Vedavalli, son Ashwin and daughter Anusha. In addition my advisory group included my sister Ms Jayalakshmi Chary, Sujatha, her husband Gopal, Dr. Saroja Srinivasan, my brother Lakshmi Narasimha and his wife Vijaya. Observations, comments and ad- vice from time to time were utilised for course corrections and presentation changes. Their contributions have been invaluable and gratefully accepted.

My friend Ranganathan Narayan read almost all the manuscripts. His com- ments and encouragement are being gratefully accepted. Ms Nikita Sharma did enormous work in getting the documentation in order. Without her help I could not have completed this work. I am grateful for her help.

I now come to a couple who made it all possible -my brother, Lakshmi Narasimha and his wife Vijaya. Right from the moment they had a look at the book they were convinced that it deserved publication. From that time onwards, the management of the project was entirely in their hands. It is rarely that one witnesses such a dedication and intensity of effort. Without their help, it is doubtful whether I could have got the book published.

Mr V.K. Agrawal, IAS read the manuscript and gave some valuable advice. I remain grateful for the encouragement he gave in getting this book published.

I am grateful to Dr. Ravva Srihari, Editor in Chief at TTD publications who retired recently, for his meticulous effort in going through this manual. I also remain grateful to Prof. Lakshmanaiah, the current Editor in Chief, for his efforts in getting this project properly vetted and then getting it approved for printing. I am thankful to the then Executive Oficer, Sri M G Gopal Gaaru, IAS and the present Execu- tive Officer, TTD Dr D Sambasiva Rao Gaaru, IAS for their interest in the publi- cation of this project. I thank Sri Ramaraju, for his interest in the publication of this project.





CHAPTER II – CREATION 13 BASIS 13 BEGINNING 13 DITI’S SIN 14 KAPILA VASUDEVA 15 ATRI’S TAPAS 15 ARROGANT KING 16 DHRUVA’S TAPAS 16 KING PRITHU 17 KING BHARATA 18 DAKSHA’S DESCENDANTS 19 DAITYAS AND MARUTS 19 SOLAR DYNASTY 20 Trishanku 20 King Bhagiratha 20 LUNAR DYNASTY 21 Nahusha and his personal heaven 22 Kuru Vamsha and Kurukshetra 22 Sri Krishna and Balarama 22 CHAPTER III – VEDAS AND UPANISHADS 34 VEDAS 34 INTRODUCTION 34 Ananta 35 Anadi 35 Apourusheya 36 Purusha Sookta 38 Nasadiya Sookta 38 Vedas as the source of development 39

Vedas over the years

The revelation

An Overview

Animal Sacrifice


Rig Veda -Samhita

Yajur Veda Samhita

Sama Veda Samhita


VEDAS – SUB DIVISIONS Rig Veda Mantra Samhita Mandala, Anuvaka and Sookta Ashtak, Adhyaya and Sookta Rig Veda Brahmanas

Aitareya Brahmana

Kaushitaki Brahmana

Rig Veda Aranyakas

Aitareya Aranyaka Kaushitaki-Aranyaka

Rig Veda Upanishads

Yajur Veda Samhita

Shukla Yajur Veda

Krishna Yajur Veda

Sama Veda Samhita

Atharva Veda Samhita INTERPRETING VEDIC TEXTS Yajnika School


































Nirukta School 60 Dharmashastric School 60 Mimamsa school 60 Aitihasika School 60 Parivrajaka School: 60 Vaiyyakarana School 60 KINDS OF KNOWLEDGE 60 Apara Vidya 61 Para Vidya 61 INTERPRETATION BY WESTERN PHILOSOPHERS 62 CHAPTER IV – DARSANAS 63 Nastika system: Charvaka Darsana 64 Astika systems 64 Nyaya system: 65 Vaiseshika system: 65 Sankya system 66 Yoga system 68 Purva Mimamsa: 68 Uttara Mimamsa or Vedanta 69 Maharshi Veda Vyasa 70 CHAPTER V – PRINCIPAL UPANISHADS 71 INTRODUCTION 71 Isavasya Upanishad 74 Kena Upanishad 77 Katha Upanishad 80 Prashna Upanishad 83 Mundaka Upanishad 93 Mandukya Upanishad 99 Taittiriya Upanishad 110 Shiksha-Valli 112


Brahmananda-valli 115 Bhrigu-Valli 122 Aitareya Upanishad 123 Chandogya Upanishad 128 AUM Meditation 131 Meditation on Sama 132 Meditation on the Sun and Shandilya Vidya 133 Samvarga Vidya 135 Panchagni and Vaisvanara Vidyas 135 Panchagni Vidya 135 Vaisvanara Vidya 137 Teaching by Uddalaka to Svetaketu 138 Sanatkumara’s instructions on Bhuma Vidya 140 Dahara Vidya 145 Brhadaranyaka Upanishad 147 Maitreyi Vidya 148 Akshara Vidya 149 Ushasta-Kahola Vidya 151 Uddalaka-Aruni Vidya 151 CHAPTER VI – GITAS 154 BHAGAVAD GITA 154 INTRODUCTION 154 Essence of First Hexad 156 Essence of the Second Hexad: Bhakti Yoga 158 Essence of the Third Hexad 162 Bhakti and Prapatti 163 OTHER GEETAS 164 YOGA VASISHTA 164 CHAPTER VII – MISCELLANEOUS 166 DOES GOD EXIST? 166


HOW OLD ARE THE VEDAS? 168 INTRODUCTION 168 Background 169 Invasion Theory 170 Facts vs Speculations 170 Literary Evidence 170 Scientific Verification 171 Sarasvati Factor 171 Evidence of port city Dwaraka 172 Astronomical Dating of Vedas 172 Shraddha 174 What is Shraddha ? 174 MANTRAS 177 CONSEVATION DURING VEDIC TIMES 180 Vedic Literature – Aims & Achievements: 181 What the Vedic literature said 182 Energy and environment 182 Religion and ethics of conservation 183 Guidelines for Practice 183 Emperor Ashoka and his pioneering work 184 First “Veterinary hospital” in the world 184 Participatory Forest management 184 Religion as a tool 184 OBJECTS OF HUMAN ASPIRATIONS (PURUSHARTHAS) 185 Artha 186 Kaama 186 Dharma 186 Moksha 187 KARMA 188 Types of Karma 189

Sanchita Karma Prarabda Karma:

Agami Karma: Kriyamana Karma: Sequence of Karma phal Worthiness of the Karma Fate and Fatalism Conclusion UNDERSTANDING – I Who am I?

I am not my eyes, my ears I am not my mind

I am not my memory

I am not my intellect

I am not ignorance


Characteristics of Sanskrit drama Elements of Rupaka

Vastu (Plot) Avasthas Rasa Abhinaya Bhava

Neta (Hero)

Nayika (Heroine)

Other characters Presentation of the play Aim of Sanskrit drama Languages

Immortal Playrights


































Asvaghosa 204 Bhasa 204 Kalidasa 205 Harsha 205 Sudraka 205 Vishakhadatta 205 HINDU SYMBOLOGY 205 INTRODUCTION 205 The mystic Mantra “OM” 206 Shiva Linga 206 Shiva’s form 207 The twelve Jyotirlingas 208 Vishnu Worship 208 Saligrama Shilas 208 TILAKA 211 Shaivite Tilak 211 Vaishnavaite Tilak – Urdhvapundra 211 Pancha Samskaras 212 i. Thapa Samskara: 212 ii. Pundram 212 iii. Naamam 212 iv. Mantram 212 v. Ijyai 212 Achamana and Prokshana 213 Offering food to God and Pancha Pranas 214 HINDU UPASANA AND RITUALS 214 Upasana or Worship 214 Puja 215 Do Hindus worship hundreds of Gods? 215 Idol worship 217 Homa or Havan 221


How the Homam is performed? 221 Yagyas 222 REASONS FOR DOING SHRAADDHA 222 Prana 222 The Body 223 Pancha Pranas 224 Onward March to the Beyond 224 Departure of Soul 225 Soul’s journey after death 226 Shraaddha 226 CHAPTER VIII – SELECTED STUTIS 229 INTRODUCTION 229 MANTRAS 232 Saattwika Mantras: 232 Raajasika Mantras 232 Taamasika Mantras: 232 Gayatri Mantra 237 Maha Mrityunjaya Mantra 245 Ganapati Mantra 246 Shanti Mantras 247 Shree Sooktam 254 Purusha Sooktam 262 Narayana Sooktam 272 Mantra Pushpam 277 Aditya Hridayam 281 Gadya Trayam 286 Sharanaagati Gadyam 293 Emanations of Sriman Narayana 330 Shriranga Gadyam 335 Sri Vaikuntha Gadyam 344 Sri Vaishnava Mantras 357


Pancha Samskaras 357 Thaapa Samskaram: 357 Pundra Samskaram: 358 Nama Samskaram: 358 Mantra Samskaras 358 Yajna (Yaaga) Samskaram 358

Ashtaaksharam Dwaya Mantram Charama Shloka CHAPTER IX – INTRODUCTION Karma Yoga

359 361 364






Jnana Yoga


Eight limbs of Raja Yoga 372 Yama 372 Niyama 372 Asana 372 Pranayama 372 Pratyahara 372 Dharana 372 Dhyana 372 Samadhi 372 Bhakti Yoga 372 Prapatti Marga (Bhara Samarpana Yoga or Nyasa Yoga) 373 CHAPTER – X -OF BODIES, SHEATHS, AVASTHSAS AND GUNAS377 INTRODUCTION 377 Bodies 377 Sheaths 378 Gunas, Avasthas and Vrittis 380 Gunas 380


Sattva Guna: 381 Rajo Guna: 381 Tamo Guna: 381 Avasthas 381 Jagrat Avastha (waking state): 381 Svapna Avastha (dreaming State): 382 Sushupti Avastha (deep sleep state) 382 CHAPTER – XI – SANATANA DHARMA 388 DEFINITION OF DHARMA 388 CHANGING DHARMA 388 KINDS OF DHARMAS 390 Sanatana Dharma 390 Samanya Dharma 391 Basics of Dharma 391 Varnashrama Dharma 392 Ashrama Dharma 392 Yuga Dharma 392 CHAPTER XII – HINDU THEOLOGICAL CLASSIFICATION


INTRODUCTION 393 Advaita Philosophy of Sri Shankaracharya 394 Brahman, the only Reality 394 Anirvachaneeya Khyaati 394 Ajnaana or Avidya 395 Maya 395 Three Degrees of Reality 396 1.Praatibhaasika Satya: 396 2.Vyaavahaarike Satya 396 3.Paramaarthika Satya 396 Creation 396 Jiva 397


Sadhanas and Mukti 397 Vishishtaadvaita Philosophy of Sri Ramanujacharya 397 Ontology 398 Metaphysics 399 Means of Liberation 400 Prapatti 401 State of Liberation 401 Tenkalai and Vadakalai Schools of thought 401 Dvaita philosophy of Sri Madhvacharya 405 Dvaita Philosophy 405 Tenets of Tattvavaada 405 Divine Hierarchy (Taaratamya) 406 Supreme Being and His Consort 406 Prakrti 406 Plurality and Classification of Jivas 407 Bhakti is the means for Salvation 408 Achintya Bhedabheda Philosophy of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu 408 Ultimate Reality 409 Creation 409 Lord appears in Different Forms 409 Philosophy 409 The Lord 409 The Jiva 409 Other teachings 410 Saiva Siddhanta Philosophy 410 Supreme Reality 411 Shiva, Shakti and Maya 411 Evolution of Tattvas from Maya 411 Binding the soul 412 Attainment of Shivatva or God realization 412 Jainism 413

Soul (Jiva) or Living Being Substance Non-Living (Ajiva) Substances Asrava (Influx of karma)

Bandha (Bondage of karma)

Prakriti Bandha (type of karma)

Ghati karma

Aghati Karma

Sthiti Bandha (Duration of attachment) Pradesa Bandha (Quantity of karma) Punya (Virtue)

Paap (Sin)

Samvara (Stoppage of Karma) Moksha (Liberation) Buddhism













Chooda Karma


414 414 415 415 416 416 416 417 417 417 417 417 418 418 420 421 421 422 422 422 423 423 424 424 424 424 424 424 424 424 424




Upanayanam 424 Samavarthana 425 Vivaha 425 Grahastya ashrama 425 Vanaprasta ashrama 425 Sanyasa ashrama 425 Anthyesthi 425 Pancha Maha Yagnas 426 Gunas 426 Ashrama Dharmas 427 Vivaha Samskara 427 Arrival of the bridegroom and honouring him 428 Maha Sankalpa 428 Kanya dana 428 Madhuparka 429 Tying of the Mangala sutra 429 Talambraalu 430 Kankana 430 Brahma mudi 430 Principal Homa ceremony 430 Panigrahana 430 Sapta padhi 431 Arundhathi Darshana 431 Pledges between the Bride and the Groom 431 Asheervad 431 Miscellaneous 431 CHAPTER XIV – SEERS OF KALIYUGA 432 INTRODUCTION 432 ALWARS 434 Poigaialwar: 435


Boodatalwar 436 Peyaiaalwar 436 Thirumazhisai Alwar 437 Nammalvar 437 Madhurakavi Alwar 439 Kulasekhara Alwar 440 Periyalwar (Vishnu-Chitta) 441 Goda Devi (Andal) 442 Tondaradippodi Alwar 442 Tiruppanalwar 443 Tirumangai Alwar 443 Divya Deshams 445 Geographic locations 446 The shrines 446 NAYANMARS 446 Tirumurais 447 Tirumantiram by Tirumullar 447 Periya Puranam by Sekkizhar 447 Padal Petra Sthalam 448 Shiva temples in Kerala created by Lord Parasurama 448





Paraak: Nitya-vibhuti Dharmabhuta-Jnana























Rules of Epistemology



INTRODUCTION 470 SULBA SUTRAS 471 VEDIC MATHEMATICS 473 Division operation 473 Vedic Numerical Code 476 JAINA MATHEMATICS: 477 GOLDEN PERIOD 477 IMPACT 478 EUROCENTRICISM 479 SOME PROMINENT MATHEMATICIANS 480 BAUDHAYANA (800 BC) 483 APASTHAMBA (600BC-540BC) 484 ARYA BHATTA-1 (476 AD – 550 AD) 484 His works 485 Arya Siddhanta 485 Aryabhattiya 485














Ganitapaada: Kaalakriyaapaada Golapaada:


Place Value system and zero pas Irrational


Indeterminate Equations


Motions in the Solar system Eclipses

Sidereal periods


His influence


VARAHAMIHIRA (505AD-587AD) His works


His works









Pythagorean triple

Pell’s Equation

































Geometry 492 Interpolation formula 493 Astronomy 493 BHASKARACHARYA (1114-1185) 493 His works 493 Arithmetic 494 Algebra 494 Geometry: 495 Calculus: 495 Astronomy 495 Trigonometry: 495 MEDIEVAL PERIOD AND THE KERALA SCHOOL 495 MADHAVA OF SANGAMAGRAMA (1340 A.D – 1425 A.D) 496 His works 496 Mathematics 496 Astronomy 497 INDIAN CALENDER SYSTEM 498 Lunar calendar system 499 Tithi 500 Vaasara 501 Nakshatra 501 Yoga 502 Karana 502 The Months 502 Masa (Lunar Month) 502 Adhika Masa (Extra month) 503 Samvatsara 504 SOLAR CALENDER SYSTEM 505 Solar year 505 Solar months 505


Solstice division of the year 506 Solar days 506 Sub-divisions of the Solar day 506 Year Numbering System 506 Vikrama and the Shalivahana calendars 506 MEDICAL SCIENCE AND SURGERY 507 INTRODUCTION 507 ASHTANGA AYURVEDA 508 Shalya tantra 509 Shalakya 509 Bhoota Vidya 510 Kaumarya Bhrtya 510 Agada Tantra 510 Rasayana 510 Vajikarana 511 SAGE CHARAKA AND THE MAHARSHI ATREYA SCHOOL 511 Triguna: 511 Tridosha 511 Individual constitution 513 Body types 514 Mono types 514 Dual types 515 Equal types 515 Sapta Dhatus 515 Mala 516 Srotas. 516 Body anatomy 517 Diagnosis Process 518 Charaka Samhita 520 SAGESUSHRUTAAND BHAGAVANDHANVANTARISCHOOL 520


INTRODUCTION 520 SUSHRUTA SAMHITA 521 Surgery 521 Methods of diagnosis 521 Primary healing of wounds 521 Surgical procedure 521 Purva Karma (Pre-operative) Procedures 522 Pradhaana Karma (Operative Measures) 522 Paschaat Karma (Post operative care) 522 Bandages 522 Infection 522 Plastic Surgery 522 Haemostatic Methods 523 Thermal injuries 523 CHAPTER XVII – ANCIENT LEARNING 524 GURUKULA SYSTEM 525 TEMPLE COLLEGES 525 AGRAHARA INSTITUTIONS 525 CHAPTER XVIII – ANCIENT UNIVERSITIES 526 UNIVERSITY AT TAKSHASILA 526 RISE OF BUDDHISM AND THE UNIVERSITIES 526 Nalanda University 526 Vickramasila University 527 Odantapuri University 527 Jagaddala University 528 Somapura University 528 Vallabhi University 528 TECHNICAL EDUCATION AND APPRENTICE SYSTEM 528 REFERENCES 529 ABOUT THE AUTHOR 531

Chapter – I Hindu Scriptures & Sanskrit Literature


Three religions are regarded as the oldest having come down to us from pre-historic times. They are Hinduism, Zoroastrianism and Judaism. Sanskrit, as defined by Panini, is the classical Sanskrit which evolved from the earlier Vedic Sanskrit. Vedic Sanskrit is the language of the Vedas consisting of Samhitas, Brahmanas and Upanishads. The metrical hymns of the Rig Veda Samhita are regarded as the earliest composed by man.

Prof. Max Muller while recording the first voice on a Gramophone chose the first Shloka of Rig Veda “Agni Meele Purohitam”. He proceeded to explain the reason for his choice – “Vedas are the oldest text of the human race. And Agni Meele Purohitam is the first verse of Rig Veda. In the most primordial time, when the people did not know how even to cover their bodies and lived by hunting and housed in caves, Indians had attained high civilization and they gave the world universal philosophies in the form of the Vedas.”

There are two important aspects about the Vedas – (a) Hindus regard that the Vedas have been received through revelation. It was not written by any man (Apaurusheya); and (b) The Vedas are without a beginning and end.

How is it possible? Swami Vivekananda explains. “By the Vedas no books are meant. They mean the accumulated treasury of spiritual laws discovered by different persons at different times. Just as the law of gravitation existed before its discovery, and would exist if all humanity forgot it, so is it with the laws that govern the spiritual world. The moral, ethical, and spiritual relations between soul and soul and between individual spirits and the Father of all spirits, were there before their discovery, and would remain even if we forgot them”. The name given to the discoverers of these laws was” Kavi”. The Vedas described them as kavayah satyasrutah meaning seers who were the hearers of the truth. The Veda itself was called Shruti meaning revealed scripture. The sage who had a direct intuitional perception is called Sakshath Krutha Rishi. The sage who heard it from his Guru and remembered it is called Shrutha Rishi.

Veda have been divided into Karma Kanda (section of works and rituals) and Jnana Kanda (section of knowledge) the former associated with the hymns and the later with the Upanishads. European scholars took up the ritualistic tradition and went on to make their own etymological explanation of the words resulting in arbitrary meaning for Vedic verses. In fact, what they were looking for in Veda was the early history of India, its society, institutions – in short a picture of the times. They then invented the theory (based on the difference of languages) of an Aryan invasion from the north, and an invasion of the Dravidian India. The Indians themselves had no memory of such invasions and there were no records of such events in their classical


literature. Yet, this appears to have persuaded the minds of some Indians in favour of this view. All this resulted in a chaos and a mutilation of dates of historical events. As Aurobindo puts it “the Vedic religion was on this account only a worship of Nature-Gods full of solar myths and consecrated sacrifices and a sacrificial liturgy primitive enough in its ideas and contents, and it is barbaric prayers that are the much vaunted, haloed and apotheosized Veda”. And we were left to trace our civilization and ancestors from among the ruins at Mohenjo Daro and Harappa. In recent years, Indian scholars have started work on the scientific dating of various events described in our Puranas. The Rishis, the poet seers of Veda, were men with a great spiritual and occult knowledge not shared by ordinary men. Among this enlightened group, there are a number of Rishikas (female Rishis) as well. Still the task is unfinished. To be revealed is one thing, to preserve it and pass it on is quite another thing. The mantras acquire their powers by virtue of their acoustic energy of the syllables (Shabda). In addition, correct sequence of words, purity of the language, exact pronunciation of the words, precise stress on syllables, measured pause between syllables, appropriate tone, accent, modulation and pitch of recitation, proper breath control etc are very critical. In the case of written texts comparisons may be carried out much more easily. How can you devise a system to control the requirements of Vedic texts? In addition the requirement for memorising the entire Vedic texts existed. The Ashrams of the Rishis served as the learning centres and they were located in forests. And maintaining large libraries was impracticable.

Oral Tradition

Systems have been devised to meet this challenge. It is astounding that large volumes of Vedic texts were preserved by oral tradition for over thousands of years, safeguarding their purity and entirety. Svaadhyaya, the oral tradition, by which Vedas have been preserved, emphasizes the preservation of actual sound of the Vedas over their meaning and interpretation! Careful thought and planning have gone into devising methods to achieve the desired results. Oral methods have been around in other parts of the world as well but rarely has any other oral tradition been so venerated and so well preserved as the Vedic tradition.

Rishi Veda Vyasa categorised and compiled four Vedas so that they are more amenable to study and memorise. The task of preserving and perpetuating each branch of Veda in its entirety and purity was assigned to a specified Shakha (branch). The followers of each Shakha, identified as Shakhins of that particular Vedic school, were responsible for preserving their assigned part of Veda. Followers of each Shakha would learn and preserve one of the four Samhitas along with their associated Brahmana, Aranyaka, Upanishads and the Sutras such as Grhyasutra and Shrautasutra. Today only a small number of Shakhas have survived- among them are Sakala and Bhaskala. Siksha, one of the six Vedangas that dealt with phonetics and phonology of Sanskrit laid down the rules for correct pronunciation of


Vedic Hymns and Mantras. Along with this, several patterns of Vedic chants were devised to ensure complete and perfect memorization of the text and its pronunciation including the Vedic pitch, accent. These patterns called Pathaas ensured correct recital of the Veda mantra by weaving the mantras into various patterns and complex combinations of patterns. There are eleven acknowledged patterns or Pathaas Viz. Samhita or vakhyaa, padaa, krama, jataa, maala, Sikhaa, rekhaa, dhvajaa, dandaa, rathaa and Ghana. For illustration, salient features of a few Pathaas are given below

(a) Krama Paathaa: The first word of the mantra is added to the second, the second to the third, the third to the fourth and so on, until the whole sentence of the mantras is completed. The order of words will be 1-2; 2-3; 3-4; 4-5 and so on.

(b) Jata Paathaa: the first two words are recited together and then the words are recited in a reverse order and then again in the original order. Jata Paathaa is a play by twisting the Krama Paatha: The order will be 1-2-2-1-1-2; 2-3-3-2-2-3; 3-4-4-3-3-4; 4-5-5-4-4-5 and so on

(c) Ghana Paathaa: This is one of the most popular form of recitations and requires years of learning and practice. A scholar proficient in recitation in this format is honoured as Ghana_ paathi. In Ghana Paathaa the combination will be: 1-2-2-1-1- 2-3-3-2-1-1-2-3; 2-3-3-2-2-3-4-4-3-2-2-3-4; 3-4-4-3-3-4-5-5-4-3-3-4-5 and so on

By applying these stringent methods of learning and complicated patterns of recital, each generation committed to memory long passages of its assigned texts through incessant practice. This oral heritage spread over a number of years, ensured that the form and content of the texts were retained in their pristine condition. It was transmitted, orally, to the next generation. This was how the Vedic texts were retained in oral form, uncorrupted, over the centuries.

Apart from the Vedas, ancient Sanskrit literature had a number of other manuals dealing with a variety of topics guiding individuals and societies to lead healthy and meaningful lives. The chart given below gives a brief summary of what was available. Foreign invasions and changing times have taken a heavy toll. Sanatana Dharma has been there for 1000s of years. During these years it has faced many challenges and yet it is still there. It is still relevant. I am confident that it will survive the current crisis and continue to offer guidance to its followers.


Hindu Scriptures Hindu Scriptures

& &

Sanskrit Literature Sanskrit Literature

Six Orthodox heads

Four Secular heads



Upa Vedas/ Applied knowledge


Science of War








Rig Veda





Yajur Veda

Krisna Yajur Veda

Sama Veda

Shukla Yajur Veda

Adharva Veda


Science of Health

Gandharva Veda

Science of Music


Artha Shastra Science of Polity


Rig Veda

Adharva Veda

Shakhas / Recensions

Yajur Veda

Krisna Yajur Shukla Yajur

Veda Veda

Sama Veda

1 .. 2.. 3 …….21

1 .. 2.. 3 …….109

1 .. 2.. 3 …….1000

1 .. 2.. 3 …….50

Yajur Veda Samhita. Mostly in prose. Used by its priest Adhvaryu

Sama Veda Samhita. Used by its priest Udgatri

Panchavimsa Shadvimsa Chandyogya Adbhuta Arsheya

Satapat Taittiriya ha


Each of the


has an


Each of the


has an


Rig Veda Samhita. The oldest and the best. Used by its priest Hotri



Sankhayan a

Each of the


has an






1000 Upanishads

Adharva Veda Samhita. Used by its priest Brahma


Each of the


has an




Karma Kanda

Mantra Samhita or Hymns


Explanations of Mantras or Rituals

Upasana Kanda


Philosophical interpretations of rituals

Jnana Kanda


Spiritual truths



Limbs of Vedas


Six explanatory limbs


Knowledge of phonetics By Panini


Grammer By Panini


Meter dealing with prosody

By Pingalacharya


Philology or Etymology By Yaska


Astronomy & Astrology By Garga


Method of Rituals –

Srauta, Grihya Dharma, Sulba


Kalpa is the method of the ritual

Srauta Sutra: Explains the rituals of sacrifices.

Grihya Sutras: Rituals in domestic lives Dharma Sutras: Deals with Ethics, customs and laws.

Pratishakyas, Padapathas, Kramapathas, Upalekhas, Anukramanis, Daivasamhitas, Parishistas, Proyogas, Paddhatis, Karikas and Vyuhas provide further elaborations in the rituals

Sulba Sutras: Treats the measurements necessary for laying out

Asavalayana, Sankhayana belong to Rig Veda

Mashaka, Latyayana, Dharyayana, Gobhila, Khadidara belong to Sama


Katyayana, Paraskara belong to Shukla Yajur Veda

Apastamba, Hiranyakesi, Bodhayana, Bharadvaja, Manava, Vaikhasana and Kathaka belong to Krishna Yajur Veda

Vaitana, Kaushika belong to the Adharva Veda


Shruthis Smrithis Itihasas Puranas (Histories)

1.Smrithis are secondary scriptures – next in importance to the Shruthis 2.Shruthi means what is heard. Smrithi means what is remembered. The

former is a revelation and the later a tradition. The former is a direct experience by the great Rishis. The later a recollection of that experience.

3.Upanishad is Shruti. Bhagavad –Gita is a Smrithi

4.Smrithis or Dharma Shastras are written by sages.

5.Shruhi is considered as the final authority. If there is anything in the

Smrithi that contradicts the Shruthi, then the Smrithi is rejected 6.Smrithis are the ancient sacred law codes of the Hindus. They

supplement and explain the ritualistic injunctions called Vidhis in the

Vedas. Smrithis are based on the teachings of the Vedas.

7.Smrithis have laid down definite rules and laws to guide individuals and

communities in their daily conduct and regulate their manners and customs. The Smrithis have given detailed instructions, according to the conditions of the time, to all classes of men regarding their duties in life. The duties of Varnashrama and all ceremonies are clearly given in these books. The object of the Smrithis is to purify the heart of the man and lead him gradually to the supreme abode of immortality.

8.From time to time, a great law-giver would take his birth. He would codify the existing laws and remove those that have become obsolete. He would make alterations, adaptations, readjustments, additions to suit the needs of the time and ensure the way of living of the people would be in accordance with the teachings of the Vedas. Of such law givers, Manu, Yajnavalkya and Parashara are the most celebrated. We thus have Manu Smrithi, Yajnavalkya Smrithi, and Parashara Smrithi

9.The laws of Manu are intended for the Satya Yuaga. Those of the Yajnavalkya are for the Treta Yuga. Those by Sankha and Likhita are for the Dwapara Yuga. Those of Parashara are meant for the Kali Yuga.




There are 18 main Smrithis or Dharma Shastras.

The most important are of Manu, Yajnavalkya and Parashara.

The other 15 are – Vishnu, Daksha, Samvarta, Vyasa, Harita, Satatapa, Vasishta, Yama, Apastamba, Gautama, Devala, Sankha-Likhita, Usana, Atri and Saunaka

Ramayana Mahabharata

Hari Vamsa Yoga Vasishtha


Shruthis Smrithis Itihasas Puranas Agamas Darsanas (Histories)

Same class as Itihasas. There are 18 Main Puranas – all written by Veda Vyasa. There are an equal number of Upa Puranas (Sub- Puranas). Srimad Bhagavata Purana and the Vishnu Purana are well known. A portion of the Markandeya Purana is well known as Devi Mahatmtya. The divine Lilas of Lord Shiva are recorded in Tamil Puranas like Shiva Purana, Periya Purana, Shiva Parakramam and Tiruvilayadal Purana. The language of the Vedas is difficult to grasp and assimilate. Puranas present philosophical truths and precious teachings in an easier manner for common people



Main Puranas & (No. of Verses)

1 Vishnu Purana (23,000)

2 Naradiya Purana (25,000)

3 Srimad Bhagavata Purana (18,000)

4 Garuda Purana (19,000)

5 Padma Purana (55,000)

6 Varaha Purana (24,000)

7 Brahma Purana (10,000)

8 Brahmanda Purana (12,000)

9 Brahma Vaivarta Purana (18,000)

10 Markandeya Purana (9,000)

11 Bhavishya Purana (14,500)

12 Vamana Purana (10,000)

13 Matsya Purana (14,000)

14 Kurma Purana (17,000)

15 Linga Purana (11,000)

16 Shiva Purana (24,000)

17 Skanda Purana (81,100)

18 Agni Purana (15,400)

Upa Puranas

1 Sanatkumara Purana 2 Narasimha Purana

3 Brihannaradiya Purana 4 Sivarahasya Purana

5 Durvasa Purana 6 Kapila Purana

7 Vamana Purana 8 Bhargava Purana 9 Varuna Purana 10 Kalika Purana

11 Samba Purana

12 Nandi Purana

13 Surya Purana

14 Parasara Purana

15 Vasishtha Purana

16 Deva-Bhagavata Purana 17 Ganesha Purana

18 Hamsa Purana

Shruthis Smrithis Itihasas Puranas Agamas Darsanas (Histories)

The Agamas are theological treatises and practical manuals of Divine worship. They include Tantras, Mantras and Yantras. They explain external worship of God in Idols, temples etc. All the Agamas treat of (1) Jnana or knowledge (2) Yoga or concentration (3) Kriya or esoteric ritual (4) Charya or worship.They also give details on temple building, image making etc. The Agamas are divided into 3 sections – (a) Vaishnava (b) Shaiva (c ) Shakta. The Vaishnava or Pancharatra Agamas glorify God as Maha Vishnu. The Shaiva Agamas glorify God as Maha Shiva. The Shakta Agamas or Tantras glorify the God as the Mother of the Universe _ Devi .The Agamas do not derive their authority from the Vedas but are not antagonistic to them. They are all Vedic in Spirit and Character. For this reason they are considered authoritative

Vaishnava Agamas Vaikhanasa

Brahma Saiva

Vasishta Kapila

Gautamiya Naradiya

Saiva Agamas

1. 28 in all

2. The chief one is Kamika 3. Each Agama has a Upa


4. The Kashmir Saivism

called “Pratyabhijana” is also based on these Agamas

5. These are suitable for this age of Kali Yuga

6. They are open to all castes and both sexes

Sakta Agama

1. Glorify Shakti as the World Mother 2. There are 77 Agamas

3. ThetextsarelikePuranas

4. Usually in the form of dialogue

between Shiva and Parvathi 5. Mahanirvana, Kularnava,

Kualasara, Prapanchasara, Tantraraja, Rudra – Yamala, Brhma – Yamala, Vishnu- Yamala, Todala Tantra are the important works.


Pancharatra Pratishthasara





( By Gautama Maharshi)



( By Kanada Rishi)




( By Kapila Muni)





(Six schools of philosophies)

Poorva Uttara Mimamsa Mimamsa ( Veda Vyasa)

( By Jaimini)

1. Itihasas, Puranas and Agamas are meant for the masses. Darsanas form the intellectual section of the Hindu writing. Darsanas are schools of philosophy based on the Vedas. They are meant for scholars having excellent powers of understanding, acute acumen, power of reasoning, subtle intellect and a very good understanding of the Vedas.

2. The philosophy has six divisions. Hence, it is called Shad Darsana – six different schools of thought. Each school has developed and systematized various parts of Vedas its own way. Each system has its own Sutrakara – a great Rishi who has systematized the doctrines of the school and put them in short aphorisms or Sutras.

3. The Sutras are short and terse. The Sutras, themselves, are very difficult to understand without the help from great teachers and Rishis. Thus, there arose a number of eminent commentators are Bhashyakaras, who in turn produced commentaries on the original commentaries.

A Sutra or an aphorism refers to a very short and terse statement (without any ambiguity at all) embracing all the meanings and containing the complete essence of a large volume of knowledge. They are to be kept in memory at all times.

4. The six Darsanas are divided into 3 pairs – to help explain the philosophy of the Vedas in a rationalistic manner. Nyaya and Vaiseshika form the first pair, Sankhya and Yoga the second pair, Mimamsa and Vedanta the third pair.

5. Panini composed Ashtadhyayi, the greatest and perfect of all Sutra literature. Panini is regarded as the father of all Sutrakaras.

6. The six Vedangas along with Shad Darsanas constitute the 12 sets of core Sutra literature. The others are, later compositions like

Narada Bhakti Sutras, Shandilya Bhaki Sutras etc

7. Each of the Sutras, are supported by – a) Bhashya (b) Vritti (c) Varttika (d) Vyakhyana (or Tikka) (e) Tippani

(a) Bhasya is an elaborate exposition or commentary with word by word meaning of the aphoristic precepts together with the individual views of the commentator or Bhashyakara. The best and exemplary Bhashya in Sanskrit literature is the one by Patanjali on the Vyakarana Sutras of Panini. Patanjali is regarded as the father of Bhashyakaras. Other highly regarded ones are – Bhashya on Mimasa Sutra by Sabara- Swamin, Bhashyas on Brahma Sutra by Jagadguru Shankaracharya and that by Sri Ramanujacharya.

(b) Vritti is a short gloss explaining the aphorisms in a more elaborate way, but not as elaborately as the Bhashya. Bodhayana’s Vritti on Brahma Sutra is an example.

(c) Varttika is a critical study on the Bhashya highlighting the imperfections and ways of making it better. Notable Varttikas are – Katyayana’s on Panini Sutras, Sureshwara’s on Shankara’s Upanishad Bhashya and Kumarila Bhatta’s on Sabara Bhashya.

(d) Vyakhyana or Tikka is a running explanation in an easier language of what has been said in the original Darsana or Bhashya. Vachaspati Mishra’s work on Darsanas and Shankara’s Brahma Sutra Bhashya is an example.

(e) Tppani is very similar to Vritti but less orthodox. It gives explanations of difficult words or phrases in the original. Kaiyata’s

( By Patanjal)



Shrutiss Smrities Itihasass Puranas Aagmass

Darshanas Kalas

A brief overview of some of the Sciences that existed and covered by Vedas is given below –

1 Akshara Laksha: By Sage Valmiki. Subjects such as mathematics, geometry, algebra,trigonometry,minerology, hydels are said to have been treated. . This work comprehends earlier discoveries by Sage Kashyapa, Ganapati, Soorya, Brihaspati, Jaimini, Hanuman and others

2. Shabda Shastra: By Kandika Rishi. Deals with sound, its measurement, and methods of mechanically rereproducing them.

3. Lakshana Shastra: By Shaktayana. Science of determining sex

4. Shakuna Shastra: By Sage Garga. Deals with omens – good and bad effects from sounds of birds, words of human beings

5. Shilpa Shastra: By sage Kashyapa. Handles the constructions of temples, palaces, halls etc. Earlier writers on the subject were –

Vishwakarma, Maya, Maruti.

6. Malinee Shastra: By sage Rishyashringa. Deals with flower arrangements garlands, bouquets, hair-do’s in various styles for

women, writing love messages on flower petals etc are said to have been included

7. Supa shastra: By Sukesa. Deals with the science of cooking. It is said, more than 3000 dishes for people living in different parts

of the world have been described.

8. Science of Kala orTime: By Lord Kartikeya. Division of time into definite periods, auspicious and in-auspicious moments etc are

said to have been handled.

9. Samudrika Lakshana: By Samudra Raja. Topics handled are –Oceanography, living under and above sea

10. Dhatuvada: By Ashwini Kumaras. The subject of metallurgy.

11. Visha Shastra: By Ashwini Kumaras. The subject of 32 kinds of poisons, their properties, preparation, effects and antidotes are


12. Chitrakarma shastra : By Bhima. Deals with the science of drawings.

13. Malla Shastra: Deals with gymnastics and Sports

14. Ratna Pariksha: By sage Vatsyayana. Handles the subject of testing gems

15. Artha Shastra: By sage Vyasa. Handles wealth creation and accumulation

16. Yantras: By sage Bharadwaja. Deals vehicles for transportation – by lands, boats and ships 17. Mahendrajala: By Veerabahu (serves Lord Kartikeya). The science of Magic



4 Secular heads

1. Subhashitas refer to wise sayings, instructions or stories in prose or poetry.

2. Notable ones are – -Bhartrihari’s Subhashitas

– Somadeva Bhatta’s Katha

Sarit Sagara

– Kshemendra’s Brihat-Katha-


– Panchatantra

– Hitopadesa

Subhashitas Kaavyas

1. Kaavyas refer to highly scholarly compositions in poetry, prose or both

2. Notable among the Poetical Kaavyas are –

– Kalidasa’s Raghuvamsa and

Naatakas Alankaras

1. Naatakas refer to scholastic dramas in Sanskrit. Characters in these dramas portray a number of moods (Rasas).

There are 9 different Rasas. They are – Sringara, Veera, Karuna, Adbhuta, Haasya, Bhayaanaka, Bheebhatsa, Raudra and Santi.The Rasa Santi is not portrayed in Natakas.

Well known Naatakas are –

– Kalidasa’s Shakuntala

– Bhavabhooti’s Uttara Rama


– Vishaka Datta’s



1. Alankaras refer to texts dealing with effective compositions in ornamental language – both in poetry and prose.

2. They are even superior to the Kavyas and Natakas

3. The best among the Alankara Granthas are –

-Mammata’s Kavyaprakasha




Kumara Sambhava

– Bharavi’s Kiratarjuniya

– Magha’s Sisupala Vadha

– Sri Harsh’s Naishada Notable among the Prose Kaavyas

are –


Notable among those containing both Poetry and Prose are – -Champu Ramayana



Bhattabana’s Kadambari and

Jagannatha’s Rasagangadhara

Roots – Creation


Chapter II – Creation

Puranas contain history of remote times. They are meant for common people and describe the times, troubles and triumphs of their heroes. A Purana usually gives prominence to a certain deity (Shiva, Vishnu, Krishna). Most use an abundance of religious and philosophical concepts in their narration from Bhakti to Sankya.

According to Matsya Purana, they deal systematically with five subjects called Pancha Lakshana. They are –

(1)Sarga – The creation of the Universe

(2)Pratisarga – Secondary creations after dissolution

(3)Vamsa – Genealogy of Gods and sages

(4)Manvantara – Creation of the human race and the first human beings (5)Vamsaanucharitam – Dynastic histories.

A Purana, generally, gives importance to a particular deity and treats other deities to secondary roles. This is to increase the faith in their particular Ishta- Devata.

The following section is based on Srimad Bhagavatam. At same time, it is not intended to give complete details of the entire Bhagavatam. The aim is to give a broad picture on the genealogy of prominent men and women of their times.


There was a great deluge. The entire Earth was submerged in water. Lord Narayana was absorbed in Yoga nidra after the Maha pralaya. He was reclining on the great serpent Adisesha. The entire Universe had been withdrawn into Him and lay dormant in Him.

The three Gunas Sattva, Rajas and Tamas were in equilibrium. So it was a long time. Then TIME caused a disturbance in the three Gunas and the equilibrium was upset. Out of the navel of the Lord Narayana emerged a thin stalk. This grew into an immense lotus. Into that lotus entered the Lord in another form which was Brahma. Brahma found that he had four heads. He then looked around and saw large expanse of water and nothing else. It seemed to him that the waves around appeared to be telling him to perform Tapas. He then did the Tapas for hundred years. All of a sudden, he saw the form of Lord Narayana in his mind. Brahma realized He was the Purusha. Lord Narayana told him “I have set you the task of creating the world and the beings on it.


Roots – Creation

Out of the mind of Lord Brahma were born the four Rishis Sanaka, Sananda, Sanatana and Sanatkumara. Brahma asked them to take up the task of creation and multiply. However, the minds of the Rishis were made up of attaining salvation. They refused to undertake the task of creation. Brahma was angry with them but he controlled it. However, his anger took up a form and emerged out of his forehead. The child began to cry as soon as he was born. The child asked for a name and a place to stay. Brahma told the child “Do not cry. Since you cried the moment you are born, you will be called Rudra. The heart, the senses, life, the sky, air, fire, water, earth, the sun, the moon and tapas are the places assigned to you. You can go now and produce many in your image”.

Brahma then created ten sons out of his body. These were – Atri, Angiras, Pulastya, Pulaha, Kratu, Bhrigu, Daksha, Marichi, Vasishtha and Narada. Dharma and Adharma were also born out of Brahma. Out of his heart was born desire and out of his brows anger. His shadow took a form and this son was named Kardama. From his mind and body was created this entire world. The four Vedas were born out of his four faces.

Brahma then divided his body into two; one was male and the other female. They were called Svayambhu Manu and Shatarupa. As soon as he was born Svayambhu Manu asked his father what he wanted him to do. Lord Brahma commanded that the work of creation should be continued. At that time the Earth was submerged in water and the Manu did not have a place to start. Brahma then sought the help of Lord Narayana who assumed the form of a boar in order to raise the Earth from below the water. He plunged into the ocean, located the earth, raised it on his tusks and began to climb. An Asura named Hiranyaksha tried to stop His progress but he was killed.

Svayambhu Manu and Shatarupa produced five children; three were daughters- Akuti, Prasuti and Devahuti. The sons were Priyavrata and Uttanapada.

Akuti was married to a rishi by the name Ruchi, Devahuti to Kardama and Prasuti to Daksha. The children of these and their descendants have populated the world. Daksha had thirteen daughters. He gave them in marriage to Kashyapa, son of Marichi. Diti was one of them.

Diti’s sin

One evening just after Kashyapa finished his evening worship, Diti came to him and wanted him to make love to her. Kashyapa refused pointing out that evenings are sacred for the worship of Mahadeva. However, Diti was determined to have her way. As a result of her sin, Diti gave birth to two sons and both of them were wicked. They were known by the names Hiranyaksha and Hiranyakashipu. It was this Hiranyaksha who was killed by Lord


Roots – Creation

Narayana in the form of Varahamoorthy. Hiranyakashipu also hated Lord Narayana intensely. However, his son Prahlada was a great devotee of the Lord. Hiranyakashipu persecuted everyone including the Devas. However, when he started punishing his son he crossed the limit. Lord Narayana killed him manifesting in the form of Narasimha.

Devahuti served her husband Kardama with great devotion. They had nine daughters. Sage Kardama married his daughters to Rishis. Kala was given to Marichi; Anasuya to Atri; Shraddha to Angiras; Havirbhu to Pulastya; Gati to Pulaha; Kriya to Kratu; Khyati to Bhrigu; Arundhati to Vasishta and Shanti to Atharva.

Kapila Vasudeva

Finally, Lord Narayana was born Devahuti’s son. He was named Kapila. It was this Kapila who established the well known Sankhya Yoga. Kapila Vasudeva was born to reveal Brahma Vidya to human beings. Kapila teaches Atma Vidya to his mother to help her realize the Lord. After the birth of Kapila, Kardama retired to a forest and spent his days in Tapas. After teaching his mother Brahma Vidya, Kapila leaves home. Devahuti spent the rest of her life on the lines taught by her son and attained liberation. The spot where she attained Brahman became a holy spot. It is called Siddhapada. Even gods visit this place. Sage Kardama’s next daughter, Shraddha, was married to Sage Angiras. They had a son and he was Brihaspati. Havirbhu married Sage Pulastya and they had two sons; one was Sage Agastya and the other was Vishravas. The son of Vishravas was Kubera. Vishravas had another wife named Kaikasi. She was the mother of the famed Ravana, Kumbhakarna and Vibhishana. Kratu’s wife Kriya was the mother of Rishis named by “Valakhilyas”. Kyati, wife of Bhrigu had two sons. One of them was the father of Mrikandu. The other son was Sage Shukracharya, the Acharya of Asuras.

Atri’s Tapas

Daksha Prajapati married Prasuti, the second daughter of Manu. They had sixteen daughters. Thirteen of the daughters were married to Dharma. One daughter was given to Agni; one to the Pitris and one was given to Lord Mahadeva.

Anasuya, daughter of Manu was married to Sage Atri. Sage Atri performed a great penance on the mountain of Ruksha. He wanted a son from the Lord of the Lords who will be like Him. Pleased with his Tapas all the three murthis- Brahma, Vishnu and Mahadeva appeared before him. Overwhelmed by the simultaneous presence of the tri-murthis Sage Atri worshipped them appropriately. In response to the query from the three murthis, the sage replied “I prayed for the best among you to grant me a son in His image. It is up to you to tell me who is the best from among you”. Brahma, Vishnu and Mahadeva were amused by his words. “We are all aspects of the Brahman. It


Roots – Creation

is the same Brahman who creates, preserves and destroys. We wanted you to realize the truth and that is why all three of us have come. You will be father of three sons, each one an amsha of each of us. They will become very famous and bring you a great name”. The son born to Atri with the amsha of Brahma was the Moon; Datta was the son with the amsha of Vishnu and the son with the image of Mahadeva was Durvasa.

Arrogant King

Daksha Prajapati’s daughter, Sati, married Lord Mahadeva. Daksha once performed a great Yagna by the name Brahma Satra. As the Yagna was about to commence, Daksha felt that Mahadeva insulted him. In an uncontrollable anger he abused and cursed the Lord. In an atmosphere charged with anger and emotion the followers of Daksha and Lord Mahadeva exchanged curses. As a follow-up on this Yagna, Daksha performed another where he pointedly did not invite Mahadeva. The Lord did not attend the Yagna but allowed His wife to attend, since she was very keen. However, on arrival at the yagnashala, she discovered that her father, Daksha, ignored her. Others at the scene did not dare to defy Daksha. Sati was furious at the insult targeted towards her husband. She spoke harshly to her father. Then by yogic power she burnt her body and was reduced to ashes.

On hearing about the tragedy at the yagnashala, Lord Mahadeva was not at all surprised but was very furious. He pulled a strand from his matted locks and threw it on the ground. Out of it was born Virabhadra glowing like fire. Mahadeva ordered that the proud Daksha along with the yagnashala to be destroyed. Virabhadra along with Pramathaganas rushed to the yagnashala. Within a short time the place was destroyed and Daksha was killed. All the Devatas accompanied with Lord Vishnu and Brahma went to Kailasa to meet Mahadeva and pacify Him. He forgave Daksha and who came back to life with the head of a goat. The Yagna was completed.

Dhruva’s Tapas

Uttanapada, the son of Manu, had two wives; Suniti and Suruchi. Suniti’s son was Dhruva and Suruchi’s son was Uttama. Surichi was the favourite wife of Uttanapada. Under the influence of Suruchi the king treated Uttama with great affection and openly neglected Dhruva. The child ran to his mother and complained. Suniti advised the child to take refuge in Lord Narayana. He went away to a forest not knowing how to gain the grace of the Lord. Sage Narada decided to help the child. He initiated the Maha mantra “Aum Namo Bhagavate Vasudevaya” and told him to repeat it with his mind firmly concentrated on the Lord. Dhruva performed intense Tapas repeating the mantra. Lord Narayana was very pleased with the young devotee. He blessed the child that his wish to become the favourite of his father will come true and his father will crown him as a King In addition the Lord told the boy that He is


Roots – Creation

assigning a place for him which will be eternal. The Sun and Moon will revolve round it. At the end of his life Dhruva reached Lord Narayana.

King Prithu

One of the descendants of Dhruva was a tyrant named Vena. He would not listen to advice from his ministers and continued with his reign of terror. The Rishis then invoked the God of death and Vena died. After the death of Vena, the land had no king to rule. Eventually with the help of penance of the Rishis a boy and a girl was born. They named the boy as Prithu. The girl was named Archis. From the lakshanas, the Rishis knew that he was born from an amsha of Lord Narayana. Archis was Sri Maha Lakshmi.

When he was old enough, the boy was crowned as king. After he was crowned as king, the Rishis called him Prithu, the great protector of the world.

Prithu noticed that his subjects were thin and emaciated. He concluded that Earth was not yielding enough. So he confronted Mother Earth and decided to punish her. Mother earth got frightened and explained that as time passed sinful acts were being committed everywhere. In a fit of anger she decided that the people were not fit enough to enjoy the wealth provided to them. However, she promised that she will now agree to yield enough food for all people. Everyone then got what he wanted. King Prithu was very pleased with the earth and her bounty, that he made her his beloved daughter. Since then mother Earth came to called as Prithvi. He was the first king that ever won the hearts of the people. From his time kings have been called “Rajas”. “Ranj” means charm, “Ranjayati iti Raja”. Prithu was the first Raja – “Adiraja”. King Prithu performed one hundred Ashvamedhas.

King Prithu’s grandson was Havirdhana who married Havirdhani. They had six children and the eldest was Barhishat. He married Shatadruti, daughter of the lord of the seas. Ten sons were born to this couple and they were famed as Prachetas. King Barhishat believed in the performance of yagnays and he performed many. Sage Narada took interest in him and initiated the Brahma Vidya advising him that it was the way for salvation. King Barhishat followed his advice.

Prachetas, the ten sons of King Barhishat, were great devotees of Lord Narayana. Lord Mahadeva was pleased with them and decided to help them. He taught them Rudra Gita and asked them to repeat it with a steady mind in order to gain the favour of Lord Narayana. They did that. The Lord Narayana was pleased with their devotion and asked them to marry Marisha, daughter of an Apsara. He also told the brothers that she will bear them a son whose fame will spread all over the world. All ten of them married Marisha. A son was born to them and he was Daksha. It was the same Daksha Prajapati who insulted Lord Mahadeva. He was born as a human being for the sin he


Roots – Creation

committed. Prachetas crowned Daksha as the king and left for the forest. However, he too left for the forest to perform Tapas.

We mentioned earlier that Svayambhu Manu had two sons – Priyavrata and Uttanapada. We learnt earlier that Uttanapada’s son was the famed Dhruva. Priyavrata was the eldest son of the Manu. However, he had no desire to rule the kingdom and left for the forest to perform Tapas. Uttanapada and later Dhruva ruled the land. However, when Daksha, their descendant, left for the forest, the land was without a ruler. Lord Brahma went to Priyavrata and persuaded him to take up the reins of ruling the kingdom. Priyavrata married Barhishmati, daughter of Vishvakarma. Ten sons and a daughter were born to them. Agnitra was the eldest son. Three of his brothers left to the forest to perform Tapas. Agnitra and his six other brothers ruled the seven islands. The daughter Ojasvati was married to Shukra and their daughter was Devayani. People were happy during his rule. Priyavrata was interested in tracing the path of the Sun. He equipped himself with a chariot fast enough to travel with the Sun. He travelled with the Sun around the Earth seven times. The moats formed by the quick progress of his chariot became the seven great seas. They were named – Lavana, Ikshu, Sura, Sarpi, Dadhi, Kshira and Madhu. The earth divided into seven islands. They were named – Jambu, Plaksha, Shalmali, Kusha, Krauncha, Shaka and Pushkara.

King Bharata

Agnitra’s son was Nabhi and he had no children. He performed a great sacrifice where he worshipped Lord Narayana. The Lord was pleased with Nabhi and promised that he will be born as a son to Nabhi. The child was named Rishabha. Rishabha was crowned as the king after Nabhi. Rishabha married Jayanti the daughter of Indra. They had hundred sons; the eldest of them was Bharata. Bharata was a great king and the land was called Bharatavarsha after him. After a long number of years, Bharata decided to retire to the forest. He distributed his kingdom among his sons he went away to the ashrama of sage Pulaha near Haridwar. He worshipped Lord Narayana with great devotion. His heart was filled with peace born out of renunciation and detachment. One day he rescued a new-born deer when her mother died. He brought up the deer with great care and was greatly attached to it. His meditation and prayers were all things of the past. And when he died Bharata’s mind was on the deer. Since his thoughts were on the deer, Bharata was born as a deer. However, he had the privilege of remembering his previous birth. As a deer he travelled to holy places and finally died. And that was not the end of it all. Bharata was born again as a son of a Brahmin in the Angirasa clan. He was disgusted and did not want any attachment with anyone. His thoughts were continuously on Lord Narayana and it did not bother him to do menial jobs. He was Jada Bharata. He wandered over earth till he obtained salvation.


Roots – Creation

Daksha’s descendants

Daksha, son of Prachetasa brothers married Asikni and had sixty daughters. Of the ten were married to Dharma, seventeen to Kashyapa, twenty-seven to Chandra and Bhuta, Angiras and Krishashva married two each. Vishvadevas were sons of one of the daughters.Marutvati was the mother of Marutvan and Jayanta. Jayanta was also called Upendra.Sankalpa was one of the daughters. Her son was also named Sankalpa and he was the father of Kama.

The daughter Vasu was the mother of the eight Vasus Sarupa, wife of Bhuta became the mother of thousands of Rudras, eleven of whom were famous: Raivata, Aja, Bhava, Bhima, Vama, Ugra, Vrishakapi, Ajaikapat, Ahirbudhnya, Bahurupa and Maha.Kashyapa wives were Aditi, Diti, Dhanu, Kashtha, Arishta, Surasa, Ila, Muni, Krodhavasha, Tamra, Surabhi, Saram, Timi, Vinata, Kadru, Patangi and Yamini. Aditi ‘s son was Vamana – one of the incarnations of Lord Narayana. Vamana was born in the month of Bhadrapada: Shukla Paksha: Dvadashi and Abhijit was the star under which the child was born. In later years this dvadashi will be known as Vijaya Dvadashi.

The sons of Aditi were Vivasvan, Aryama, Pusha, Twashta, Savita, Bhaga, Dhata, Vidhata, Varuna, Mitra, Sakra and Urukrama.Dhanu had sixty one children. One of them was Vrishaparva. His daughter Sharmishta marries King Yayati, son of King Nahusha. Surabhi produced cows and buffaloes. Tamra gave birth to hawks, falcons and eagles. Krodhavasha was the mother of serpents with fangs. Ila produced trees. Arishta was the mother of Gandharvas. Kashta produced animals without split hooves. Viprasiddhi, son of Dhanu married Simhika, daughter of Hiranyakashipu. They had hundred children which included Rahu and Ketu. Muni gave birth to Apsaras Patangi produced birds and Yamini gave birth to moths and similar short-lived insects Vinata was the mother of Aruna (charioteer of Sun) and Garuda who carried Lord Narayana Kadru was the mother serpents. Famous among the sons were – Sesha, Vasuki, Takshaka and Karkotaka

Daityas and Maruts

Hiranyaksha and Hiranyakashipu were the sons of Diti. She also gave birth to Maruts. Hiranyaksha was killed by Lord Narayana in the form of Varaha. Hiranyakashipu hated Lord Narayana for this. He persecuted all devotees of Narayana.

Hiranyakashipu’s son was Prahlada who turned out to be the greatest devotee of the Lord. When Hiranyakashipu started persecuting Prahlada, then the Lord killed him in the form of Narasimha. Prahlada’s son was Virochana. And his son was the great asura king Bali. He defeats God Indra and


Roots – Creation

becomes the Lord of the world. It was to subdue King Bali that Lord Narayana was born as Vamana. Bali was involved in conducting a great Yaga. Vamana approaches Bali and asks for a boon. The boon the child was asking was for three paces of ground as measured by the child. Shukracharya,the preceptor of the King reveals to the King that the child is in fact Lord Narayana himself and the boon should be refused. However, the king was excited to be in a position to grant a boon to the Lord of lords. He gives it. Vamana measures the earth and heaven with two paces and asks Bali a place for the third pace. Bali offers his head. Lord Narayana was very pleased with Bali and blessed him.

Solar dynasty

Aditi, wife of sage Kashyapa, gave birth to twelve Adityas. One of them was Vivasvan, the Sun god- Surya. Surya’s son was Vivasvatha Manu. Manu had many sons and one of them was Ikshvaku. He was the founder of Ikshvaku dynasty; sometimes referred to as Surya Vamsha. In the line of Ikshvaku was born Naabhaka. He became one of the greatest seers of his time. Naabhaka’s son was Ambarisha and he possessed immense wealth. Yet he was aware that all the things of this world like riches are transient. He lived in this world of men without any bondage. He was a great devotee of Lord Narayana. His encounter with the sage Durvasa while practicing Dvadashi Vrata is well known.

King Puranjaya was one of the descendants of Ikshvaku. He was a great warrior and was called by another name Kakutstha. King Mandhatri was one of the descendants of this lineage and was regarded as a great monarch.


Satyavrata was a later king in the Solar dynasty. His son was Trishanku. Trishanku wanted to reach heavens with a human body. He approached his Guru Vashishta and resented his strange wish and cursed him to become a Chandala. Vishvamitra, the generous hearted agreed to perform a Yagna to send him to heaven. And he did perform the Yagna and the king was raised to the heavens. The devatas led by their king Indra resented it and threw him down. Vishvamitra got furious with the devatas and stopped Trishanku in mid air. Further he went on create a new heaven solely for the purpose of Trishanku. As he was about to create a new Brahma, the devatas pacified him. Trishanku lived in the special heaven.

King Bhagiratha

Trishanku’s son was Harischandra. Another great king born in the Solar dynasty was King Sagara. He had two wives; Sumati and Kesini. Sumati had sixty thousand sons and Kesini had one son named Asamanja. Asamanja son was Amshuman and he was greatly devoted to his grandfather. Emperor Sagara wanted to perform Ashvamedha Yaga. Lord Indra stole the horse and


Roots – Creation

left it in a cave where Sage Kapila was in Samadhi. Sixty thousand sons of the emperor went in search of the horse. When they found the horse in front of the sage, they mistook him to be the thief. Hearing the noise the sage opened his eyes and the sixty thousand princes were reduced to a heap of ash. Amshuman went in search of the sixty thousand princes and the missing horse. He finally reached Maharshi Kapila and fell at his feet. The sage told him to take the horse back to the emperor Sagara. He also told Amshuman that if water from Ganga could be used to wash the ashes of the princes, then they could ascend to the Pritriloka. The only problem was Ganga at that time was in the heavens. How do you bring it to the earth? Both Amshuman and his son Dilipa performed Tapas. Both of them died before achieving any success. Bhagiratha, son of Dilipa, was determined to bring Ganga to the Earth. He performed tapas for a long time and Goddess Ganga was pleased with him. However, she asked that when she comes down from the heaven to the earth what will be there to take up the force of her fall. Bhagiratha began to perform tapas once again to please Lord Mahadeva. At last he got the Lord to agree to receive Ganga on His matted locks. The rest is history. The sixty thousand valiant sons of Sagara reached the loka meant for the Pitris.

Raghu was a king from the Solar lineage. His son was Aja. And Aja’s son was King Dasharatha. Rama, Lakshmana, Bharata and Shatrughna were the four sons of King Dasharatha. The famous Purana Ramayana written by Sage Valmiki tells deeds performed by the four brothers.

Lunar Dynasty

We have seen that Chandra (also called as Soma) was one of the sons of Sage Atri. Lord Brahma made him the lord of the Oshadhis (medicinal herbs) and of stars. Soma conquered the three worlds and performed the Rajasuya. He was very handsome. In course of time he became proud and arrogant. Soma stole Tara, the wife of Brihaspati and refused to give her back. In the end Lord Brahma intervened and restored Tara back to Brihaspati. Tara had a son through Chandra. He was named as Budha. Budha married Ila and they had a son named Pururavas and he becomes the first king in the Lunar dynasty – Chandravamsha.

In the line of Pururavas was born a king named Gadhi. His daughter named Satyavati married Ruchika, a Brahmin. Gadhi had a son by the name of Kaushika. In later years Kaushika, after performing great tapas, came to be known as Vishvamitra.

In course of time Satyavati had a son and he was named Jamadagni. He married Renuka and five sons were born to them: Vasuman, Vasu, Vasushena, Rumanvan and Rama. Rama was Kshatriya by nature. He came


Roots – Creation

to be known as Parashurama. It was he who nearly exterminated the entire Kshatriya clan.

Nahusha and his personal heaven

Pururavas had six sons, the eldest of whom was Ayu. His descendants were Nahusha, Yayati and Puru. Nahusha was a very good king, performed many yajnas and was fit enough to be Indra. As it happened, the Devatas came to Nahusha with a request to officiate as Indra during a period when Indra was in hiding. Nahusha did that for a while and started becoming arrogant with the power and wealth at his disposal. He misbehaved with the Rishis and was cursed to spend his time as a python. He begs forgiveness and was told that he will be released from the curse by the Pandavas in Dvapara Yuga.

Nahusha’s son was Yayati. Yayati had two wives: Devayani, daughter of Shukracharya and Sharmishta. King Yayati had five sons – two from Devayani and three from Sharmishta. The sons of Devayani were Yadu and Turvasu. Sons of Sharmishata were Druhyu, Anu and Puru.

Kuru Vamsha and Kurukshetra

Puru was considered as one of the foremost kings of the Lunar dynasty. Kuru was another. So the vamsha was called Paurava vamsha or Kuru vamsha. In this vamsha was born King Dushyanta. Dushyanta married Shakuntala. Shakunta was born to the apsara Menaka when she lived with Sage Vishvamitra. The son of Shakuntala was Bharata. One of the descendants of Bharata was Kuru. Kuru performed tapas in a spot named Kurujangala. This spot came to be named as Kurukshetra. The descendant in this line was king Shantanu who was the grandfather of kauravas and Pandavas.

Yayati’s son Yadu was not interested in ruling a kingdom and he was made to rule one of the smaller kingdoms. He had three other sons- Kroshtu, Nala and Ripu.

Sri Krishna and Balarama

In the line of Kroshtu was born Andhaka and Vrishni. A descendant of Andhaka was Aahuka whose sons were Devaka and Ugrasena. Devaka had a daughter by the name of Devaki. She was given in marriage to Vasudeva, son of Shura. The son of Devaki and Vasudeva was Lord Krishna.

Vasudeva had seven wives – Pauravi, Rohini, Bhadra, Madira, Rochana, Ila and Devaki. Through Rohini, Vasudeva had Balarama as his son.

Vasudeva had five sisters – Pritha, Shrutadevi, Shrutakirti, Shrutashravas and Rajadhidevi. Kunti Bhoja was a friend of Shura and did not have any children. King Shura gave his daughter Pritha to his friend. Pritha, from then on, was better known as Kunti. She was the mother of three of the Pandavas- Dharmaraja, Bhima and Arjuna.


Roots – Creation

Given below is a chart in brief that gives the names of some of the familiar personages we come across in Puranas. The Puranas contain a detailed Vamsha Vriksha.


Roots – Creation

Dharma & Adharma

Desire & Anger

Rishi Sanatana

Rishi Vashishta

Lord Sriman Narayana

Lord Brahma

Four Vedas

Rishi Sanak a

Rishi Sananda

Rishi Marichi

Rishi Sanatkumara

8 Rudras

Rishi Atri

Rishi Angirasa

Rishi Pulastya

Rishi Bhrigu

Rishi Pulaha

Rishi Kratu

Rishi Narada

Svayambhu Manu Shatarupa


Akuti Prasuti Devahuti


Priyavrata Uttanapada

Rishi Ruchi

Rishi Kardama

Daksha Prajapati




Roots – Creation

8 Rudras


Bhava Sharva Ishan Pashupati Bheem Ugra Mahadeva


Agnitra Nabhi


8 Wives

Sati Uma Vikeshi Swadha Swaha Dik Diksha Rohini



Daksha Prajapati & Prasuti

16 daughters

13 daughters married


1 daughter married


1 daughter married

Lord Mahadeva

1 daughter married



Daughter of Indra




Roots – Creation

Rishi Kardama & Devahuti


Kala Anasuya Shraddha Harirbhu Gati Kriya Arundhati Khyati Shanti Son Kapila Vasudeva

Kapila Vasudeva

Rishi Marichi

Rishi Atri

Rishi Angiras

Rishi Pulastya

Rishi Pulaha

Rishi Kratu

Rishi Vashishta

Rishi Atharva

Rishi Bhrigu


Roots – Creation

Rishi Kardama & Devahuti







Daughter Khayati

Rishi Marichi


Rishi Kashyapa

Rishi Angiras


Deva Guru


Rishi Pulastya

Rishi Bhrigu




Son Vishravas + Rishi wife Kesini






Ravana Kumbhakarna Vibhishana



Roots – Creation

Rishi Kardama & Devahuti



Svayambhu Manu Shatarupa

Son Son

Rishi Atri


Chandra Dattatreya Durvasa



Terrible King Vena


Great King Prithu

(After whom the Earth has been named Prithvi)

10 Sons


Asikni Son

10 Daughters

Married to Dharma


60 Daughters

27 Daughters

Married to Lord Chandra

6 Daughters (2 each)

Married to Sages Bhuta, Angirasa, Krishashva


17 Daughters

Married to Sage Kashyapa

Roots – Creation


10 Wives




Lamba Bhanu

Marutvati Sankalpa Muhurta Sandhya Vishva

8 Sons

Gods Vasus

Aapa Dhruva Soma Dhara Anila Anala Pratyusha Prabhasa

God Chandra

27 Wives Son

The 27 Nakshatras


Architect of the Gods


Roots – Creation

13 Wives


Diti Dhanu Kashtha Arishta Surasa

Ila Muni Krodhavasha Tamra Surabhi Vinata Kadru


Daityas (demons)







King Bali

12 Sons

Gods Adityass

Sage Kashyapa

Vivasvan Aryama Pusha Twashta Savita Bhaga Dhata Vidhata Varuna Mitra Sakra Vamana


Shraddhadeva Manu God Yama Yami Ashwini twins God Shanaischara

Mother of Yakshas and Rakshas

Mother of Gandharvas

100 Sons

Danavas Viprasiddhi


Rahu Ketu


Roots – Creation

Sage Kashyapa

13 Wives


Diti Dhanu Kashtha Arishta Surasa

Ila Muni Krodhavasha Tamra Surabhi Vinata Kadru

Mother of

Mother of

Mother of Nagas

Her 6 daughters gave birth to owls, eagles, vultures etc

Mother of cows & buffalos

Mother of


& Aruna (Sun’s charioteer)

Mother of Apsaras

Trees, Snakes plants

Mother of serpents

Adi Sesha, Vasuki, Takshaka


Roots – Creation


Sage Kasyapa & Aditi

Vivaswana (Surya)


Vaivasvata Manu

One of 100 Sons




King Kubalashva

King Dridashva

King Trayaruni

Solar Dynasty





King Bahu



2nd Wife Sumati

60,000 sons

King Dilipa



King Raghu

King Aja




Sri Ramachandra

1st Wife Keshini

King Panchajana

King Anshuman


Roots – Creation

God Chandra







Lunar Dynasty

Wife Tara

3 Sons

Druhya Anu Puru

King Bharata

King Kuru

Kuravamsha is named after him


Of Gandharvadesa



2 Sons

Yadu Turvasu



Kings of

Pandya Kerala Kola Chola

4 Sons

Sahasrajit Kroshtu Nala Ripu




In this lineage was born Lord Sri Krishna


Vedas Introduction

Chapter III – Vedas and Upanishads

The word “Veda” has been interpreted in a number of ways by scholars. (a)The word Veda originates from the Sanskrit root Vid. “Vid ́ means to know. The word “Veda” then literally means knowledge. (b)The word Veda also means “to be”. It is concerned with “astiva” – existence. That which creates awareness in a man about his own existence is called Veda. (c)Veda could also be interpreted to mean “to think”. The process of thinking awakens discretion in a man leading him to be wise and judicious. Thus the knowledge which helps him to distinguish between Sat and Asat is Veda. (d)Veda could be interpreted to mean accomplishment. Thus the knowledge which helps a man realize his supreme goal is Veda.

Veda has also been interpreted as ‘the means by which, or in which all persons know, acquire mastery in, deliberate over the various lores or live or subsist upon them.’

Yet, the Vedas are not documents of yester years. The Vedas have been accepted, without any dispute, as the most ancient book in the in the Sanskrit world. They have been there for thousands of years. Many argue that Veda is oldest book, not just in the Sanskrit world, but anywhere in the world. We will come to this argument a little later in this section.

The Vedic literature is composed of many books. The oldest texts are the four Vedas – Rig-Veda, Yajur-Veda, Sama-Veda and the Atharva-Veda. It is said that the Vedas had 21, 109, 1000 and 50 branches respectively with over 100,000 verses. Today we may find only around 20,379 verses in total from these four Vedas.

And interestingly, they are not considered to have been authored by some poets or authors. They are regarded as divine in origin and referred to as “apaurusheya”. Veda is not an acquired knowledge. They are not products of reasoning or intellect. They have been accorded the position of revealed scriptures and are revered in Hindu religious tradition. It is the sublime knowledge revealed by the Supreme Divinity to great Rishis or Seers (Drashtas) during their meditation. These Rishis were merely instruments of God to spread His word. The Vedas are the God’s gift to the man. Shri Aurobindo says they contain the ‘divine knowledge’ revealed to the great Rishis in their “Supra-normal Consciousness”. Whatever was ‘heard’ or ‘revealed’ to the great Rishis was presented in the Vedas and the Upanishads. From thereon, over the Millennia the Vedas have been handed over from generation to generation by oral tradition and hence the name “Shruti” or “that which is heard”. For this reason, the Vedas are known as Shruti literature.


A number of people think that the Vedas are solely meant for spiritual contemplation. This is not correct. Discussions regarding the relationship between Jiva and Paramatma appear in the concluding sections of the Vedas – the Vedanta or Upanishads. Vedas also contain worldly and divine concepts. The Vedas were created for the welfare of the mankind. The motive of the Vedas is to help man to remain happy in the materialistic world – even though he might have failed to understand the main purpose of life in this world.

Creation by the Lord is seen as a more meticulously planned effort than is commonly understood. Before the creation of living beings (both Chetana and Achetana) questions such as – what will they breathe, what will they eat, how should they conduct themselves, how will they survive, how will they populate etc have all been addressed. The stage was set before the arrival of living beings. Further, man needed guidance on personal conduct and actions (what is a good conduct and what is not), interactions and his responsibilities (to the society, family, ancestors).

Before the creation of man, the Lord created Pancha Maha Bhutas to fulfil the requirements of the physical body. Similarly, He presented the Vedas for the sake of the embodied soul as a guide on other matters. The Rig Veda is a storehouse of information on the lifestyle, religious, social and cultural practices of the people of the Vedic age. The suitable aspects of living a happy and healthy life by practicing meditation and Yoga, etc. are mentioned in a detailed manner in the Rig Veda. Today, this text is revered by Hindus around the world, primarily in India and Nepal. Its verses are recited at prayers, religious functions and other auspicious occasions. The Vedas are considered to be full of all kinds of knowledge, and an infallible guide for a man in his quest for the four goals – Dharma, Artha, Kama and Moksha. As such, the knowledge revealed to the ancient sages bears the hallmark of a Divine source.

Traditionally, the following features are attributed to the Vedas.

Ananta – Veda is Anantha – infinite. Only an infinitesimal portion of it is revealed to humans. This can be understood in the sense that knowledge is infinite. However, Veda is the knowledge of Brahman, the True, Absolute and the Infinite. And the essence of Veda is said to be understood if one knows the infinite, i.e., opens up to the infinite Self.

Anadi – Veda is Anadi, having no beginning or end. It said to exist eternally. It is referred to as the breath of Paramatma. However, this is a poetic expression. This does not literally mean Paramatma has a breath but just the way breath exists with a person’s life similarly Veda exists with God/creation.


Apourusheya – Veda is Apourusheya, not authored by humans. The seers are said to reveal Veda mantras to the world, they are called “Drastas”. Vak exists in four forms and the learned know of them. Three are hidden and the fourth is what men speak. The four forms are – Para, Pasyanti, Madhyama and Vaikhari. Para is the eternal form of Vak. Pasyanti is when a seer envisions the mantra. Madhyama is when it descends into mind plane. Vaikhari is the expression. Thus the Veda mantras exist eternally, they are only revealed to the world by the seers.



Anadi Apourusheya

Veda is Anantha – infinite. Only an infinitesimal portion of it is revealed to humans. This can be understood in the sense that knowledge is infinite. However, Veda is the knowledge of Brahman, the True, Absolute and the Infinite. And the essence of Veda is said to be understood if one knows the infinite, i.e., opens up to the infinite Self.

Veda is Anadi, having no beginning or end. It said to exist eternally. It is referred to as the breath of Paramatma. However, this is a poetic expression. This does not literally mean Paramatma has a breath but just the way breath exists with a person’s life similarly Veda exists with God/creation.

Veda is Apourusheya, not authored by humans. The seers are said to reveal Veda mantras to the world, they are called “Drastas”. Vak exists in four forms and the learned know of them. Three are hidden and the fourth is what men speak. The four forms are – Para, Pasyanti, Madhyama and Vaikhari. Para is the eternal form of Vak. Pasyanti is when a seer envisions the mantra. Madhyama is when it descends into mind plane. Vaikhari is the expression. Thus the Veda mantras exist eternally, they are only revealed to the world by the seers.


The Vedic literature is also known by other names such as –

Nigama: Traditional wisdom transmitted from generation to generation Amnaaya: The root texts of Hindu tradition

Trayi: Vedic texts comprising of versified mantras, prose mantras and melodies

True, the sages might have acquired the verbal form during certain period in history. Indian scholars have dated even this verbal form to be anywhere between 6000 to 24,000 years B.C. The truths revealed by the Vedas are beyond the influence of time. Time or place can not affect the significance of the knowledge ‘contained’ in the Vedas. For that reason, the Vedas are adjudged the Swatah Pramana or self-evident. That means their truths do not need any proof, support or elaboration. Their validity is built-in. They constitute the first significant utterances on the lips of the man.

Shruti, the revealed knowledge, is accepted as a means of gaining valid knowledge about the Reality. It is the Shabda Pramana. Discussions on this are presented in another section of this book. Vedas formed the basis of religion and philosophy and even today they are authoritative in those fields for Hinduism. For this reason any other Hindu scripture must agree with the Vedas in order to be considered an authority. Schools of philosophy which reject the authority of the Vedas are considered “Naastika”, while schools which accept Vedic authority, are considered “Astika”.

“The message that the Vedas convey unites all worshippers as surely as the dogmas of the ignorant divide. Against such a background, Hinduism developed an attitude of comprehensive charity instead of fanatic faith. It is completely free from the attitude that a certain religious metaphysics is essential for salvation, and non-acceptance thereof is a heinous sin. In other words, it did not regard that its mission is to convert humanity to any one opinion. Hinduism does not believe in bringing about a mechanical uniformity of belief or worship by forcibly eliminating all that it is not in agreement with. It does not say that Moksha is limited to only those who hold a specific view of God’s nature and worship. Such exclusive view is in-consistent with an all loving universal God”.

Worshippers of different Gods and followers of different faiths were taken into Hindu fold. The addition of new gods to the Hindu pantheon does not endanger it. The main note of Hinduism is one of respect and goodwill for other creeds. What counts is conduct and not belief. It accepts and allows each group to arrive at the truth by its own traditions and by means of


discipline of mind and morals. Error in individuals is a sign of immaturity and not a grievous sin.

Vedas as the source of development “ Ekam sat vipraha bahuda vadanti”

– meaning The Real is essentially One only, though the sages speak about it variously owing to the planes in which One is seen. Inadequate understanding by some western thinkers led to Hinduism being labelled as “henotheism” – essentially suggesting opportunistic monotheism. This flies against the Upanishadic explanation that all things and beings are God – because they form the body and function of the Brahman- “Sarvam Kalvidam Brahma”. The view presented by the Upanishads is that every prayer addressed to any of the gods and goddesses ultimately get directly referred to One Supreme Being. So common sense polytheism inherent in hierarchy is not in every sense contradictory to monotheism. While on this topic, one is reminded of two magnificent Sooktas – The Purusha Sookta and the Nasadiya Sookta.

Purusha Sookta

It is the hymn of the cosmic person. It gives a magnificent description of the spiritual unity of the cosmos. It occurs in all Vedas with slight variations of the order of the mantras. This famous hymn acts as a synthesis of several Vedic concepts. The Sookta presents the Reality as both immanent and transcendent. The all encompassing Purusha , who is all heads, all eyes and all limbs, envelops and permeates creation from all sides and clearly stands above it as the glorious immortal (Sahasra sirsa Purusha, Sahasraksa Sahasrapad, Sabhumim visvato vrttva atyatista dasangulam, purusa evedam sarvam). The whole Universe is a small fraction of Him, as it were, for He ranges above it in His infinite glory. The divine personalities have merged in the One Supreme Purusha. The monism of metaphysics finds its transformation as the supreme personality of God of religion. The Purusha is all that was, is and shall be. From Him proceeds the original creative will (later identified with Brahma) by which this vast Universe is projected in space and time.

Nasadiya Sookta

This is the 129th hymn of the 10th Mandala of the Rig Veda. The Sookta presents the scene that existed prior to the creation. The Supreme Being is above all beings, and its existence is beyond all possible concepts about it. “In the beginning there was neither existence nor non-existence, no realm, no sky, no air, no earth. There was neither mortality nor immortality. There was neither any form nor name. There was neither day nor night. Darkness concealed darkness. There was, however, just one thing- which breathed breathlessly by its own impulse. Other than that there was nothing. Who can tell whence it was born or was it born at all? From It the creation arose.


However, no one can give an account as to what happened and how it happened, for creation has not started by then. Everyone, including the Devas, came much later as a result of the creation. This is the central point of the Nasadiya Sookta. This in turn led to the various ramifications of philosophic and religious thought in the Upanishads.

Vedas as the source of development

The Vedas formed the basis for the later development of thought. The philosophic flights made by the Vedas climaxed in the Upanishads. Vedas inspired in the formulation of the school of Yoga which was codified in aphorisms by Patanjali. The visions of creation of the Universe expressed in the Vedas helped in the rise of the Sankya doctrine which regularised prevalent notions on cosmology and psychology. The logical trend found in the Vedas stimulated the development of anvikshiki (application of reason) and the rationalistic bias of certain systems among the Darsanas. The accounts of sages and kings which the Vedas bring out formed the basis for Epics and Puranas. The social rules and customs of the time formed the cornerstones in the systematization of conduct and law in the Dharma Shastras.

Vedas over the years

Veda, which is a Shruti literature, is treated as a supreme and an ultimate authority. The authentic Smriti literature (which we will study a little later) has its basis in the Shruti. Whenever, a difference arises between Shruti and the Smriti, the statement of Shruti is accepted as the final word. From time to time Smriti might undergo modifications, but the Shruti cannot be altered at all.

Rig Veda is built around a science of sound, which comprehends the meaning and power of each letter. All the other Vedas are based upon it and consist to a large degree of various hymns from it. Each and every letter in the hymns of the Rig Veda is pronounced in such a way that the exact meaning and power of the letter in it is clear and distinct from others. In Rig Veda the hymns are penned basing on the science of sound in order to make the pronunciation of each letter sound more powerful.

For several centuries, Vedas had to be committed to memory and were passed on orally from generation to generation. Manuscripts were sparingly used as memory aids. In this process, care has to be exercised to prevent errors from creeping in. A fool-proof method was devised.

Texts were used for aiding memorization and recitation of Vedas with utmost fidelity. They were called “Lakshana Granthas”. These texts include Padapathas, Ghanapathas, Kramapathas and other Vikrits or modification of the root text, phonetic treatises like Sikshas and Pratisakyas. The modes of chanting prescribe the basics like how much time one has to take for reciting


a word, how to regulate breathing while reciting so that required vibrations are produced in the specific parts of the body which will yield pure word-sound. As a result, several Vedic texts were transmitted over several millennia with utmost fidelity, together with accent.

There is another reason for the great care the Rishis have taken for ensuring that the mantras are uttered exactly as they were intended to be. The power of the mantra lies in the manner it is uttered – on the sound and the vibrations it generates. The script cannot convey this. It has to be demonstrated and taught by the teacher to the pupil. Shruti is composed in Vedic Sanskrit and Smritis in laukika Sanskrit. There are some basic differences between these two types of Sanskrit. In Vedic Sanskrit the words have accent, akin to notes in music, and a word’s meaning can change drastically simply by changing the accent of its letters. Therefore these words have to be heard properly from the guru.

The revelation

As we said, earlier, Vedas represent sublime knowledge revealed by the Supreme Divinity to great Rishis or Seers (Drashtas) during their meditation. However, it is not as if that all of it was revealed to one great Rishi. It is said that they have been revealed to a number of Rishis over a period of time. In the case of Rig Veda, it is believed, that around 400 sages were involved. Importantly, some of them were women sages. The Rig Veda is the only scripture in which the Divine Truths are revealed to women sages and in which hymns describing these revelations, find a prominent place in the Rig Veda Samhita. There are more than 30 women sages in Rig Veda with specific hymns associated with them..

Generally, around ten families have been identified as the original composers. They were – Kanvas, Angirasas, Agastyas, Grtsamadas, Vishvamitras, Atris, Vashishtas, Kashyapas, Bharatas and the Bhrgus. All their work was in one stream and contained 1180 Shakhas (recessions). These sages were men of great intellect and they memorized the entire Vedas before communicating the knowledge orally to their disciples.

During Maharishi Vyasa’s time there were at least 1180 such Shakhas. Each Shakha was maintained and passed on by the Guru to the disciples.

The practice of oral communication and the teaching of Vedas continued for many centuries. Towards the end of Dwapara Yuga, it appeared as if the Vedas may even have to face extinction! It was at this point in time that Maharishi Veda Vyasa appeared on the scene. His contribution in the compilation of Vedas is an example of unparalleled erudition. With great perseverance he searched and collected the works of all Rishis on Vedas up to that point in time and categorized all of them. He compiled them into four


parts and they, in turn, came to be known as Vedas. The four Vedas are – Rig Veda, Yajur Veda, Sama Veda and Atharva Veda. His contribution did not stop with the codification of the Vedas. He further authored 18 Puranas, 18 Upa Puranas, Brahma sutras and the Maha Bharata. He still had time to teach the Vedas, thus divided, to his chief disciples.



Name of the disciple













It is said that during every Dwaparyug of the present Vaivasvat Manvantara, different Vyasas have divided the Vedas twenty-eight times.

Their names are given below –


Veda Vyasa


Veda Vyasa


Lord Brahma






































Riksh (Valmiki)


















An Overview

In the Hindu tradition, Veda is a single collection of all mantras. Every mantra (verse) is one of the 3 types. (a) Rik – Mantra of illumination in one of the several metres (b) Saman – Mantra with a meter which has to be sung according to the symbols indicated in the mantra. (c) Yajus – mantra in rhythmic prose. When Veda is referred to as threefold (Trayi) the reference is to these three types. Rig Veda Samhita and Atharva Veda Samhita have only Rik Mantras. The Sama Veda Samhita has only Sama mantras. But the Yajur Veda Mantra Samhita has both Rik and Yajur mantras. Many of the Yajur Veda mantras are found in the Rig Veda Samhita also.

Yajur Veda Samhita has two types of recessions (a) Krishna (mixed) Yajur Veda Samhita (b) Shukla (pure) Yajur Veda Samhita. One of the peculiarities of Krishna Yajur Veda Mantra Samhita is – some of its anuvakas contain Brahmana passages in plain prose. It is one of the reasons for this Veda Samhita being referred to as Krishna or mixed (i.e. mixed with Brahmanas). The Shukla Yajur Veda does not contain any Brahmana passages. The mantras in the Yajur Veda Samhita give only the mantras to be chanted on various occasions. It does not give details of the rites to be performed alongside with it. These details are given in books called Brahmana, and Sutra books like Apasthamba. Each Veda Samhita has one or more Brahmana books associated with it. Aitareya Brahmana is associated with the Rig Veda. Taittiriya Brahmana is associated with Krishna Yajur Veda. Shatapatha Brahmana is associated with Shukla Yajur Veda. The Brahmana books are called Brahmana passages. They are in the form of long prose sentences. Typically each passage will explain (a) Explanation of the particular mantra in the Samhita book. – from a ritualistic point of view (b) legends about the Gods (c) details of the rites, and of oblations to the Gods (d) details of dakshina to the priest (e) material benefits that you may expect by the performance of the rites.

It is important to understand the meaning of mantras in the context of Vedas. By mantra we mean either (a) Rik mantra adhering to a specific metre (b) Yajus mantra being a short rhythmic phrase. Mantra rises from the innermost depths of the Rishi and is revealed to him. The mantra embodies a deep chunk of knowledge or wisdom. The Brahmana passage, on the other hand, is a lengthy prose passage of 50 to 100 lines with the purpose of giving details on ritualistic explanations. The seers of mantras are Rishis. However, the seers of Brahmanas are only acharyas. This means the Brahmanas may not have been composed by Rishis. For this reason the Brahmana passages have much less authority than the mantras.


Animal Sacrifice

The key concept of Veda is Yajna. Yajna is not a mere ritual. It is a symbol of intense spiritual practice , both at the individual level and also at the collective level

The question then arises as to whether “Mantras of Veda Samhitas support the killing of animals as part of the Yajna rites?”. Writings from authorities like Sayana appear to say “yes”. However, more modern intellectuals, like Sir Aurobindo argue on the concept of “Inner Yajna” and sacrifices are more symbolic in nature.

In the Hindu tradition Vedas are regarded as the source of all wisdom. These books contain the seed of the doctrine or the philosophical thought which then blossomed into the teachings of the Upanishads.

Divisions within Each Veda

Each Veda was further divided into four parts. This was done to suit the four stages in a man’s life.


The mantra portion of the Vedas is useful for Brahmacharins.

Rig Veda -Samhita

They are hymns in praise of the Vedic Gods for attaining material prosperity here and happiness hereafter. They are metrical poems addressed to various deities. They are called “RiK”. The priest for the Rig Veda Mantra Samhita is called Hotri. His function is to invoke deities to the sacrifice.

Yajur Veda Samhita

There are two Yajur Vedas. They are (a) Shukla Yajur Veda (b) Krishna Yajur Veda. The Samhitas here are in prose form. They are called “Yajus”. The priest, Adhvaryu, makes use of this. He performs the sacrifice according to strict ritualistic codes and makes offerings to the God.

Sama Veda Samhita

This is mostly borrowed from the Rig Veda Samhita. Sama Veda mantras are called “Saman”. A Sama Vedic priest Udgatri sings it.

Atharva Veda Samhita

Priest titled Brahma uses this. Being well versed in all the Vedas, he supervises and guides the sacrificial rites. The Atharva Veda is comprised of both Riks as well as Yajus.



Basically they provide a guide to people performing sacrifices. They are prose explanations of the method of using the mantras in a Yagna or sacrifice. The Brahmanas are suitable for householders

 There are two Brahmanas for the Rig-Veda. They are Aitareya and Sankhayana.

 The Shukla Yajur Veda has Satapatha Brahmana. The Krishna Yajur Veda has two Brahmanas – Taittiriya Brahmana and Maitrayana Brahmana

Sama Veda has Tandya or Panchavimsa, the Shadvimsa, the Chandogya, Adbhuta, Arsheya and Upanishad Brahmanas

 The Atharva Veda has Gopatha Brahmana


They are intended for Vanaprasthas – people preparing themselves for the last stage of life have retired to the solitude of the forests. For them the physical performance of Yajnas may not be easy. The Aranyaka portion teaches methods based on the philosophical interpretations of the rituals.


They appear at the concluding portions of the Vedas and contain the knowledge portion of the Vedas. The philosophy of the Upanishads is sublime, profound and soul stirring. They deal with the subject of Jagat, Jiva and Jagadishwara and their relationship. In the Vedas, we notice, (a) portions dealing with action or performance of rituals (referred to as Karma Kanda); (b) portions dealing with method of worship and meditation (referred to as Upasana Kanda) and finally portions dealing with the highest knowledge or the knowledge of Brahman (Jnana Kanda). Basically, Samhitas and Brahmanas constitute the karma kanda,the Aranyakas constitute the Upasana Kanda and Upanishads constitute the Jnana Kanda.

Summarizing, the scheme of Vedic learning is first studying and recitation of the hymns (Samhita) followed by performance of Yajnas (Brahmana), then an enquiry into the rationale behind the performance of these Yajnas (Aranyaka) and lastly, an enquiry into ‘Paramatma Tattwa’ and attaining its actual experience (Upanishad).

In many ways, the Rig Veda Samhita though the oldest, constitutes the basis for the other Samhitas. As an example, consider the Samhitas of Rig Veda (Sakala), Yajur Veda (Madhyandina), Sama Veda (Kauthuma) and Atharva Veda (Saunaka), we find a number of mantras are repeated. Rig Veda


mantras repeated in Sama Veda = 1800 Rig Veda mantras repeated in Yajur Veda = 581 : Rig Veda mantras repeated in Atharva Veda = 1260

In the case of the Rig Veda, Sama Veda and the Atharva Veda, there is a clear-cut separation of the Mantra collection from the Brahmana portions. In contrast, the Yajur Veda is of two types: Shukla (or white) Yajur Veda and Krishna (or black) Yajur Veda. In the former, the Mantra and Brahmana collections occur separate from each other. In the latter, the Mantra and the Brahmana portions are intermixed. Thus, the Taittiriya ‘Samhita’ belonging to the Krishna Yajur Veda has Mantras interspersed with Brahmana portions. Even the Taittiriya ‘Brahmana’ has both Mantras and Brahmana passages mixed with each other.

Coming to the Brahmana texts, there is often no clear-cut distinction between the Brahmanas proper and the Aranyakas, or between the Aranyakas and the Upanishads. The Brahmana text proper often merges into the Aranyakas and many old Upanishads are actually embedded in the Aranyakas.

At this stage, it may be appropriate to understand some of the terms we come across frequently in Vedic literature.

a) Mantras: They are hymns sung in praise of Gods. In the Rig Veda each Rik is a mantra.

b) Sookta: The Rig Veda Samhita is in the form of verses called Riks. In later years Riks came to be known as Slokas. A number ofRiksormantrasconstitute a Sookta. Examples are Purusha Sookta, Narayana Sookta, and Sri Sookta etc.

c) Sootra: They are aphorisms or declarations using minimum number of words. It contains the essence of the thought without any ambiguity. Examples are _ Brahma Sootra, Narada Bhakti Sootra, Patanjali Yoga Sootra etc.

d) Shakhas: The traditional source of information on the Shakhas of each Veda is Carana- Vyuha.

The Vedic literature that has come down to our times is attached to various traditional schools of recitation and ritual called “Shakhas”. The Rig Veda was then divided into 21 sections, the Yajur Veda into 109 sections (recessions), Sama Veda into 1000 sections and Atharva Veda into 50 sections. . Thus the whole Veda was divided into 1180 recessions.

The tradition of recitation of Vedic texts originated in the north of India. Communities of Brahmins, over a period of time, migrated from one part of India to another. Thus the various Shakhas of Vedas were spread throughout


India. Today, we now have only two Shakas of the Rig Veda, Shakala Shakha and Baskala Shaka, remain alive out of the 21 that existed at one time.

Vedas – Sub Divisions Rig Veda Mantra Samhita

The Rig Veda Samhita is, generally, classified in two different schemes. Mandala, Anuvaka and Sookta (known as Mandala- Sookta scheme) Ashtak, Adhyaya and Sookta (known as Ashtak- Adhyaya scheme).

Of these two schemes, the Mandala- Sookta scheme is the most popular


The Rig Veda Samhita has been divided into 10 Mandalas (books). The Mandalas were sub-divided into Anuvakas (sections); the Anuvakas were sub-divided into Sooktas (hymns) and the Sooktas into mantras.

Rig Veda Samhita





Deities addressed

Composer family






Agni, Indra, Varuna, Maruts, Rudra, Mitra etc

Kanvas, Angirasa, Agastya, Vishvamitra, Vashishta, Kasyapa, Bharata





Indra, Agni

Grtsamadas, Bhrgus





Agni, Indra, Vishvadevas

Vishvamitras, Angirasa, Bhrigu

3.62.10 is Gayatri mantra





Indra, Agni, Usas, Brihaspati, Ashwins






Indra, Agni, Vishvadevas, Maruts

Atri, Angirasa, Agastya, Vishvamitra, Vashishta





Indra, Agni, Ashwin, Pusan, Usasa






Indra, Agni, Vishvadevas, Maruts






Different Gods

Kanva, Angirasa, Agastya, Atri, Kasyapa,






Soma Pavamana

Kanva, Angirasa, Agastya, Vishvamitra, Atri, Vashishta, Kashyapa, Bharata, Bhrigu





Agni, other Gods

Kanva, Angirasa, Agastya, Vishvamitra, Atri, Vashishta, Kashyapa, Bharata, Bhrigu

Purusha Sookta & Nasadiya Sookta are found in this Mandala






There were a few outstanding female Vedic writers who have composed the Hymns. A brief list is given below.

Names of Rishikas

Veda reference (Mandala/S ookta)

No. Of Riks

About the writer


Vak Devi

10 / 125


Daughter of Rmbhirana

Known as Devi-Sookta



Atri clan


10 / 153 4 / 18

5 plus

5th, 6th, 7th

Wife of sage Kasyapa. Daughter of Daksha Prajapati. Mother of Adityas & Devas


8 / 91


Atri clan


10 / 154



10 / 95



1 /179


Princess of Vidarbha. Wife of great Sage Agastya


1 / 126


Queeen of Bhava Yavya. Mother of King Svanaya

Kadru, Ghosha, Juhu, Vagambrini, Paulomi, Indrani, Savitri and some others


The topics dealt with in the Rig Veda Samhita may be classified into 3 groups.

1. The first group is in praise of the deities like Agni, Indra, Varuna, Mitra and others. Although these deities appear as controlling forces of nature, they are, in fact, manifestations of One Supreme Reality. The famous mantra on this point ‘ekam sat viprah bahudha vadanti’ meaning ‘Truth is one, sage’s call it by various names’ occurs in this Samhita.

2. Thesecondgroupisconcernedwithphilosophicalspeculationslikethe origin of the Universe and the real nature of human beings. Although the Samhita is a book of laudatory hymns all the later ideas of Vedanta including Jnana and Bhakti are found there in a basic form. The worship of God with form and qualities – Sagunoposona – is predominant. The proclamation contained in various mantras show that it teaches eka-devata-vada or monotheism and not polytheism. For example, the Samhita states that God creates the world out of Himself and rules over it; He is omnipresent (present everywhere), omnipotent (all powerful) and omniscient (all knowing), He is ever perfect, infinitely compassionate, easily approachable by the devotees (Kalyana gunas). He alone grants us Moksha. However, the idea about actual process of creation of the universe finds a place only in the later Vedantic literature i.e. the Upanishads.

3. The third group deals with several secular subjects like marriage, war etc., which show the nature of society of those times. A just and equitable social order existed. However, social life was conditioned by spiritual consciousness. There was Samanvaya or harmony of life here and hereafter. Satya (truth) and Dharma (righteousness) are glorified and Amritatva (immortality) as the goal of life was accepted.

The school of philosophical thought known as the Vedanta (Upanishads) is also called Uttara-mimamsa. The founder of the Vedanta system of philosophy was Maharshi Veda Vyasa (also referred to as Badarayana Vyasa). The founder of Purva-mimamsa school was Sri Jaimini, the disciple of Sri Veda Vyasa. Of these two the Purva-mimamsa is generally understood to imply inquiry into the Mantra portion of the Vedas. The Uttara-mimamsa is understood to mean an inquiry into the Upanishad portion of the Vedas. In other words Purva-mimamsa treats Karma kanda; Uttara-mimamsa deals with Jnana kanda. Brahma Sutras of Sri Veda Vyasa are termed as Vedanta Darsanas. The Brahma Sutras are the outcome of harmonizing of the apparently conflicting Upanishadic texts.

The Vedas, each of which has Samhita, Brahmana, Aranyaka and Upanishad were again sub-divided into two parts viz. the Karma kanda (work portion) and


Jnana kanda (knowledge portion). The former (Karma kanda) leads man to the world of happiness and enjoyment in Svarga or heaven. The Jnana kanda leads man to liberation or Moksha. The Samhita and Brahmana sections makeup the Karma kanda. Aranyaka and Upanishad sections form Jnana kanda. Brahma Vidya refers to that knowledge by which Brahman is attained and it is dealt with in the Upanishads.

The Vedas have been divided into four parts (Rig Veda and others). Yet each of them has many branches. So also the Upanishads. In the Rig Veda there are 21 branches. There are 109 branches in the Yajur Veda and 1000 branches in the Sama Veda. Adharvana Veda has 50 branches. In each branch there is one Upanishad.

Rig Veda Brahmanas

The Brahmana of the Rig Veda presents the procedure for Yagna and tells how to use the Riks for yagnas. There are two Brahmana texts namely Aitareya and Kausitaki. The primary topics of discussion are the Soma and the Rajasuya Yagna.

Aitareya Brahmana

It is also known as Ashvalayana Brahmana. It consists of 40 Adhyayas (chapters) , which are further divided into eight Panchakas or fifths. Tradition names Mahida Aitareya as the author of the work. This Brahmana deals chiefly with the Soma-sacrifice, besides the fire-sacrifice and the feast of the consecration for kings (Rajasuya).

Kaushitaki Brahmana

It is also known as Sankhayana Brahmana. This also belongs to the Rig Veda, and consists of thirty Adhyayas. The first six Adhyayas deal with the food-sacrifice (fire-laying, fire-sacrifice, new and full moon sacrifices and the sacrifices of the seasons), while Adhyayas 7 to 10deal with the Soma- sacrifice agreeing with the Aitareya Brahmana. The Kausitaki Brahmana is later than the Aitareya Brahmana.

Rig Veda Aranyakas

These texts do not deal with the details regarding the actual performance of various sacrificial ceremonies but essentially devote themselves to the exposition of the philosophy behind the ritual.

Each of the Rig Veda Brahmana is supplemented by an Aranyaka. They are (a) Aitareya Aranyaka (b) Kaushitaki Aranyaka.

Aitareya Aranyaka

It consists of 5 books with each one of them being called Aranyaka. Each of the Aranyaka has been sub-divided into Adhyayas or chapters. Each Adhyaya


has been sub-divided into khandas or chapters. The first book gives an explanation of the Mahavrata from a ritualistic point of view.. The second book consistsoftwodistinctparts. The first part deals with the importance of speech in human life, creative powers of Purusha (Supreme Being) as material and efficient cause of creation, importance of Prana in life, creative powers of God etc. The second book consisting chapters 4 to 6 and is the Upanishad par excellence. The third book contains the mystic meaning of various forms of the text of the Samhita. The fourth book deals solely with the Mahanaamni verses. The fifth book consists of a description in Sutra style of the Mahavrata ceremony.


It is also called by the name Shankhayana Aranyaka. This consists of 15 Adhyayas. The first two treat the Mahavrata ceremony. The 7th and 8th Adhyayas correspond to the 1st, 5th and the 3rd books of the Aitareya Aranyaka. The four Adhyayas usually inserted between them constitute the highly interesting Kaushitaki (Brahmana-) Upanishad.

Rig Veda Upanishads

Etymologically the word ‘Upanishad’ means that which is taught to the pupils sitting at the feet of their teachers. Thus the Upanishads are books of wisdom taught by the accomplished teachers to the deserving students. If there is any scripture in the world that has sustained the spiritual thinking over the millennia, it is the Upanishads. All the schools of thought, religious movements that flourished in the later periods in Indian history have been by- products of the Upanishadic thinking. The knowledge given in the Upanishads destroys ignorance of man and leads him to Brahman. The number of works that go by the name Upanishad and available today exceeds 200. The Muktikopanishad gives a list of 108 Upanishads. Sri Adi Shankaracharya selected 10 as the principal Upanishads. Sri Shankaracharya was the earliest and the first to comment upon the Upanishads. It goes to the credit of Sri Shankara that through his masterly commentaries he brought out the Upanishads from obscurity and made them accessible and intelligible to a wider audience.

Sri Ramanujacharya, who lived between 1017 and 1137 AD, did not comment on any of the Upanishads but had enriched some of their concepts in his Vedantasangraha. His follower Sri Rangaramanuja completed the task by commenting on all the major Upanishads.

Sri Madhvacharyacharya who lived between 1197 and 1276 AD wrote brief commentaries on all the ten ancient Upanishads upon which his followers had also written explanatory studies.


Among the Upanishads, Isavasyopanishad attracted the attention of the maximum number of scholars and sages who had commented upon it over the centuries.

The list of the major 15 Upanishads and the Vedas they are associated with are given below-



Associated Veda


Isavasya Upanishad

Shukla Yajur Veda


Kena Upanishad

Sama Veda



Krishna Yajur Veda


Aitareya Upanishad

Rig Veda


Brihadaranyaka Upanishad

Sama Veda


Prashna Upanishad

Atharva Veda


Mandukya Upanishad

Atharva Veda


Taittiriya Upanishad

Krishna Yajur Veda


Chandogya Upanishad

Sama Veda


Mundaka Upanishad

Atharva Veda


Jaabala Upanishad

Shukla Yajur Veda


Svetasvatara Upanishad

Krishna Yajur Veda


Kausitaki Upanishad

Rig Veda



Shukla Yajur Veda


Mahanarayana Upanishad

Krishna Yajur Veda

The breakdown among the 108 Upanishads is given below

A brief description of the individual Upanishads will be given at a later section. The following chart presents a summary on the divisions of Rig Veda


Number of Upanishads

Rig Veda


Sama Veda


Atharva Veda


Krishna Yajur Veda


Shukla Yajur Veda



Rig Veda

Rig Veda Samhita

Mandalas – 10 Anuvakas- 85 Sookta – 1028 Mantra – 10,552

Rig Veda Brahmana

Aitareya Brahmana Kaushitaki

Rig Veda Aranyaka


Aitareya Aranyaka Kaushitaki Aranyaka

Rig Veda Upanishads

1. Aitareya

2. Kaushitaki

3. Nadabindu

4. Atmabodha

5. Nirvana

6. Mudgala

7. Akshamala

8. Tripura

9. hagyalakshmi 10. Bahvrichi


Yajur Veda Samhita

Yajur Veda Samhita is a collection Yajus or the Mantras in prose which gives procedural details to the Advaryu priest for performing Yagnas. While both contain verses for rituals, Krishna Yajur Veda includes the Brahmana prose discussions mixed with the Samhita. In the case of Shukla Yajur Veda it has a separate Brahmana sect, the Shatapatha Brahmana.

There are two major Shakhas in the Yajur Veda – They are: Shukla Yajur Veda

The Shukla Yajur Veda is also referred to as “Vajasaneya Samhita” Though it originally had 15 recessions, it now survives in two recessions – Madhyandina Shatapatha Brahmana and Kanva Shatapatha Brahmana. The Madhyandina was divided into 14 Kandas containing 100 Adhyayas, 68 Prapathakas, 436 Brahmanas and 7179 Kandikas. The Kanva was divided into 17 Kandas containing 104 Adhyayas, 435 Brahmanas and 6806 Kandikas. Note it has no Prapathakas.

Krishna Yajur Veda

The Taittiriya Brahmana in the Krishna Yajur Veda has – 3 Kandas divided into 8,8 and 12 Adhyayas and a total of 17,480 sentences. Apart from this, the Krishna Yajur Veda Brahmana has Maitrayani Samhita and an Aranyaka; Katha Samhita with an additional Brahmana and Aranyaka and Kapisthala Samhita and a few fragments of its Brahmana.

The following table summarizes the divisions within the Yajur Veda.


Yajur Veda

Shukla Yajur Veda

Krishna Yajur Veda

Shukla Yajur Samhita (Vajasaneya Samhita)

Krishna Yajur Veda Samhita

Brahmana text integrated with Samhita

1) Maitrayaniya Samhita + an Aranyaka 2) Katha Samhita + Brahmana + Aranyaka

3) Kapisthala Samhita + Brahmana

4) Taittariya Samhita + Brahmana + Aranyaka

Madhyandina Shatapatha Brahmana

Kanva Shatapatha Brahmana


Brhad Aranyaka

1. Katha

2. Taittiriya

3. Brahma

4. Kaivalya

5. Svetasvatara 6. Garbha

7. Narayana

8. Amritabindu 9. Amritananda 10. Kalagnirudra 11. Kshurika


12. Sarvasara 13. Sukharahasya

14. Tejobindu 15. Dhyanabindu 16. Brahmavidya

17. Yogatattva

18. Dakshinamurti

19. Skanda

20 Saririka

21. Yogasiksha

22. Ekakshara 23. Akshi


25. Katharudra

26. Rudrahrudhaya 27. Yogakundalini

28.Panchabrahma 29. Pranaagnihotra 30. Varaha

31. Kalisantarana 32. Sarasvatirahasya

1. Isavasya

2 Brihadaranyaka

3. Jabala

4. Hamsa

5. Parama Hamsa

6. Subala

7. Mantrika

8. Niralamba

9. Trisikhibrahmana 10. Mandalabrahmana

11. Advayataraka 12. Pingala

13. Bhikshuka 14. Turiyatita

15. Adhyatma 16. Yagnavalkya 17. Satyayani 18. Tarasara 19. Muktika



Sama Veda Samhita

In its importance in Yagas and sacredness, Sama Veda Samhita rank next to Rig Veda. However, Lord Krishna has put the Sama Samhita on top of all the four Samhitas. Sama Samhita consists of hymns chanted by Udhgatir priests at Sama Yagas. Yet, it is not considered as an independent work. All the mantras of the Rig Veda which are useful for the Udhgatir priest for chanting in the Yajnas to ensure the grace of Gods have been brought together in this Veda. The Sama Veda Samhita comprises of 1875 verses (Riks) out of which all but 75 are traceable to Shakalya Samhita of the Rig Veda.

Saman is a mantra of the Rig Veda set to music. Unlike the mantras of the other three Vedas, the mantras of the Sama Veda are simply known as Samans having seven svaras. It is said to form the basis for the Indian music system. Of the many Samhitas of the Sama Veda (the Puranas speak of 1000 Samhitas), which were said to have existed once, we now have only three available to us today. Some people divide Samhita into 2 broad divisions – Purvarchika and Uttararchika. The marked difference between the melodies of Purvarchika and Uttararchika is that the former is constituted on a single verse basis while the later is based on three verses. As indicated earlier, Lakshana Granthas, are available for aiding memorization and recitation of Vedas. However, in some cases, the accents are lost with time and the texts had to be recited without Vedic accents. For instance the Brahmanas of the Sama Veda lost their accents as early as 7th century C.E. Similarly, the Paippalada Samhita is recited by its followers today without the Vedic accents (i.e., in eka-shruti). In the case of the Madhyandina Samhita, the oral intonations are not related to the accent of the written text.


Sama Veda

Sama Veda Samhita

Sama Veda Aranyaka

Kauthuma Sakha or recension

Jaiminiya Sakha or recension

Ranayaniya Sakha or recension

Sama Veda Brahmanas

1. Tandyamaha or Panchavimsa Brahmana

2. Samavidhana Brahmana


3. Arseya Brahmana

4. Devatadhyana Brahmana Brahmana

5. Mantra or Chandogya Brahmana

6. Samhitopanishad Brahmana

7. Vamsa Brahmana

8. Jaiminiya Bhahmana

9. Jaiminiya Arseya

10. Jaiminiya Upanishad


Jaiminiya Aranyaka

Sama Veda Upanishads

1. Kena

2. Chandogya

3. Arunika

4. Maitrayani

5. Maitreyi

6. Vajrasuchi

7. Yogachudamani

8. Vasudeva

9. Mahat

10. Sanyasa

11. Avyakta

12. Kundika


12. Kundika 13. Savitri

14 Rudrakshajabala 15 Jabaladarsana 16 Jabali

Atharva Veda Samhita

Atharva refers to a Purohit or pundit. This Veda is said to have been brought to light by a sage named Atharvan. Hence the Veda is called Atharva Veda. This is also called Brahma Veda because it is assigned to the Brahma priest who supervises the conduct of the Yajna. The mantras in this Veda appear both in prose and Verse form. It is often said that this was not given the status of a Veda and was elevated to this position later. This Veda has some special features and for that reason stands apart from the others. It deals more with things here and now than the hereafter and the sacrifices therein are used to achieve these results. The main theme of the Atharva Veda is cure for diseases, rites for prolonging life, fulfilment of one’s desires, statecraft, penances, magic, charms, spells and sorcery. While the Gods of Rig Veda are approached with love, the Gods of Atharva Veda are approached with fear and favours are sought to ward off their wrath. Homage is paid to them to abstain from doing harm. Sophisticated literary style and high metaphysical ideas mark this Veda. Of the many original Samhitas, only two are available today – (a) Shaunakiya (b) Pippalada. The Shaunakiya Samhita has 5977 mantras arranged in 20 books, called “kandas”. The Pippalada Samhita has about 7950 mantras arranged in as many kandas. This Veda offers a better insight into the culture and life of the Vedic society. The reason is – it has hymns connected with wedding, agriculture, battle, medicine, domestic ceremonies etc. Significantly, dozens of hymns are devoted to Hindu spirituality and are, often, at par with the Upanishads. The following chart shows the spread of literature coming under the Atharva Veda. This Veda had nine branches or rescensions. Out of the nine, only two branches are available today – Saunakha and Pippalada.

The Atharva Veda Samhita has 5977 verses spread over 20 Khandams ( books or chapters). The Khandams are further divided into hymns and they in turn house a group of mantras.

There is only one Brahmana of the Atharva Veda that is existing today – Gopatha Brahmana. It has been divided into two major parts – Purva Bhaaga and the Uttara Bhaaga. These, in turn, are divided into eleven sections called “Prapathakas”. The Purva Bhaaga exhibits more originality of content and glorifies the Atharvan and its priests. The Uttara Bhaaga follows other Brahmanas in its content. It introduces legends related to Atharvan teachers.

The Atharva Veda has no surviving Aranyaka. One may regard the Gopatha Brahmana as its Aranyaka.


Atharva Veda

Atharva Veda

None are available


Atharva Veda Samhita

(1)Pippalada (2)Tauda

(3)Munda (4)Saunakiya (5)Jaayala

(6)Jalada (7)Brahmadeva (8)Devadarsa (9)Chaaranyavaidya

Atharva Veda

Gopatha Brahmana

Atharva Veda Upanishads

1. Prasna

2. Mundaka

3. Maandukya 4. Atharvasira 5. Atharvasikha 6. Brahajjabala 7.Nrsimhatapini

8. Narada

9. Sita

10. Sarabha

11. Tribadvibhuti 12. Ramarahasya 13. Ramatapini 14. Sandilya

15. Paramahamsa Parivrajaka

22. Devi

23. Bhavana

24. Bhasmajabala 25.Ganapati.

26. Mahavakya

27. Gopalatapini. 28.Krishna

29. Hayagriva

30. Dattatreya

31. Garuda

32 Mahanarayana

16. Annapurna

17. Surya

18. Atma 19..Pasupatabrahma 20 Parabrahma

21. Tripuratapini


Interpreting Vedic Texts

A number of methods have been used in ancient and modern times to interpret Vedic texts. Since the Vedic texts themselves were heterogeneous, no single method is best suited to interpreting the entire Vedic literature. A few examples are given below.


School of interpretation



Yajnika School

This is a ritualistic interpretation of the Vedas. Samhitas, Brahmanas and Kalpasutras provide the needed support


Nirukta School

This is the etymological method of interpretation of words and phrases occurring in the Vedas. The well known text explaining this mode of interpretation is Nirukta of Yaksha.


Dharmashastric School

This provides legal instructions from certain verses of the Veda.


Mimamsa school

Followers of this school believe that all the Veda texts should be treated as a harmonious whole. The correct meaning of the hymns can be understood if we consider the context, the relationship of various sentences and of words in those sentences. However, the method is mostly restricted to the interpretation of Brahmanas, Aranyakas and the Upanishads.


Aitihasika School

The followers argue, that each mantra is related to an Itihasa. So they interpret the concerned hymn or verses in conjunction with that Itihasa


Parivrajaka School:

Since Vedic Samhitas convey spiritual ideas, hymns can be explained in a spiritualistic way.


Vaiyyakarana School

Interpretation by application of rules of grammar.

Kinds of Knowledge

In Manduka Upanishad, a conversation between a disciple Shaunaka and his teacher Angirasa is described. Shaunaka asks a very profound question


“O glorious one! Please tell me as to knowing what we shall come to know everything.” It is essentially a wish for omniscience. In life a number of people invest a large part of their entire life, money and energy in pursuit of knowledge. At the end they become humble and start feeling that they have after all learnt very little and there is a lot more to learn. Every such person shall have a profound respect to Shaunaka’s question.

Angirasa, the teacher was very pleased with the question. He begins his answer by classifying knowledge into two categories. They are (a) Apara Vidya (b) Para Vidya.

Apara Vidya

Apara Vidya refers to all knowledge that we refer to as “worldly knowledge”. Apara Vidya is categorized as a lower kind of knowledge. Under this category comes all the modern day subjects like – Science, arts, commerce, management, technology, engineering etc. In ancient days they studied what are called “Vidyas”. Vidyas include – Four Vedas, six Vedangas, Meemamsa, Nyaya, Puranas and other religious scriptures. These fourteen vidyas together with Ayurveda, Dhanurveda, Gandharva Veda and Artha Shastra becomes eighteen. Even these eighteen Vidyas also come under the category of lower kind of knowledge – Apara Vidya”!

Apara Vidya shall help us to make a living, have a dignified & respectable life, have a thoughtful intelligent mind, but never ever hope that you shall move towards omniscience. This is not the way for the fulfilment of such an aspiration.

Para Vidya

The second category of knowledge is referred to as Para Vidya. It is a higher category of knowledge. The teacher says Para Vidya refers to that kind of knowledge by which the imperishable (Akshara Brahman) is known. This statement implies that there does exist a method and a tradition by which we can realize that which is “permanent and imperishable”. Both the object of knowledge and methods to be pursued to realize the goal are entirely different.

Though various words are used to define the Akshara Brahman, none of the words can clearly define the imperishable. Because use of a word limits the object and the Parabrahman is limitless. In fact, the imperishable is not the object of our knowledge. He is the subject. However, there is a very clear & definite way of knowing this subjective essence. The teacher uses various pointers, like Adrekshyam (not-seen), etc.

The pursuit of Apara Vidya which includes deep study of Vedas, Vedangas and other Vidyas will not lead us to realize the Akshara Brahman. Under the


careful guidance of a Guru, Para Vidya can help us achieve this objective. Even though the meaning of Para and Apara are higher and lower knowledge the Upanishad says that both of them are required. Apara Vidya instructs one on the disciplines for gaining the necessary qualification to be able to understand and assimilate the Para Vidya. Without Apara Vidya, Para Vidya is impossible and without Para Vidya, Apara Vidya is incomplete.

Interpretation by Western philosophers

Polytheism, monotheism, monism have all been read into the Vedic hymns. Max Muller even coined the term “henotheism”, as the transitional stage between polytheism and monotheism in the hymns. In the opinion of some modern scholars the Vedic hymns reveal a gradual progress of philosophical thought i.e., from polytheism to monotheism to monism!

This major flaw in interpretation is not surprising when it is understood that such an opinion springs from viewing Indian philosophy through a Western philosophical looking glass.

The fundamental difference between Western philosophy and Indian philosophy, especially the scriptures, is that while Western philosophy tries to uncover the real with the use of the intellect, Indian philosophy is basically an attempt to logically reconcile the world of experience with the spiritual experience of the sages. The sages, such as Yajnavalkya– had in fact experienced reality. Unlike Western philosophers they’re not speculating, analysing with the help of reason what reality might be. They know what it is because they have experienced it . By using analogies they are trying to describe it. Indian scholarship is more interested in seeking the ‘fruit’ of Vedic studies, whereas the Western scholarship concerned primarily with the ‘roots’ of the Vedic texts and words.

The chart presented earlier summarises the structure of the Sanskrit literature.


Chapter IV – Darsanas

Darsanas are schools of philosophy mostly based on the Vedas. Darsanas appeal to the intellect, while Itihasas and Puranas appeal to the heart. Philosophy, like most other systems of thought in India, is based on religious experience, metaphysics and ethics, rather than on epistemology. That logic should legislate for our experience is an important thing and cannot be denied. However, it is equally important to see that logic should find its feet on the ground and not allowed to soar in the sky without any let or control of facts. At the end of the day Yadaartha Jnaana is the main aim of all philosophizing. Experience is manifold, and the truth about experience must embrace all facts falling within that experience. If segments of experience alone are accepted, denying the rest it will only result in a logical collapse. Talking about logic, the Indian school of logic is not a recent arrival on the Indian scene. Gautama (6th Century BCE or earlier) founded the Anviksiki School of logic. The Indian logic is the oldest and it was followed much later by the Greek and Chinese traditions.

All metaphysical searches are after the Supreme Reality. Knowledge of the Real is possible. The question for us is – how do you apprehend the Supreme Reality. There are several theories of knowledge. Science takes its start from perceptual experience – undoubtedly the only type of experience of Reality. Yet, the existence of God transcends the conditions of space and time. (desa – Kaala). He cannot be known through ordinary perception or inference. The Supreme Being is beyond the pale of Pramaanaas of perception and anumaana. It is only by the grace of Divine can the Highest be known, understood and entered. Only then will that Perfect Being become a real being for the individual. That there is a higher demand on us, the parama- purushaartha (which means the demand to conceive, perceive and even experience the actual existence of the Supreme Reality), has been well documented. We shall start the study of the different philosophical systems by understanding the terms that will be used.

Means of Right Knowledge




That which is obtained by sense contact. Direct seeing is an example



Inferential knowledge. Seeing the smoke we infer there is fire



Argument based on similarity. Seeing an animal in the forest, the villager says it looked like a cow




we shall now consider the different thoughts based on (a) tattva or object of knowledge (Prameya) (b) source of right knowledge (Pramana) (c) Goal of life


(Purushartha). Indian thinkers did not divorce the goal of life (Purushartha) from their view of life (tattvajnana). It is not being pursued as – knowledge for knowledge sake.

In India, there are basically 9 classifications of philosophies. However, some later scholars included Advaita, Vishishtadvaita and Dvaita into the list of Astika philosophies. In this article we will discuss Charvaka Darshana from the Nastika system and the classical Shad-Darsanas (six philosophies) given below.

1. Nastika (a) Charvaka (b) Jaina (c) Buddha

2 Astika a) Sankya (b) Yoga (c) Nyaya (d) Vaiseshika

(e) Purva Mimamsa (f) Vedanta (Uttara Mimamsa)

The Nastika systems are those that deny the authoritativeness of Veda Pramana. They may accept any other human authorities. The Astika systems accept the authority of Veda as a conclusive Pramana. That is the basic difference.

Nastika system: Charvaka Darsana

It is said to have been taught by Charvaka, a pupil of Brhaspati. It accepts Pratyaksha as the only means of right knowledge (Pramana). This doctrine is a kind of sensory materialism. The life goal (Purushartha) is pleasure. Even temporary pleasure is worth seeking. The means to get pleasure should not be unpleasant. Since God is not an object of perception, God does not exist. The world of nature works mechanically.

Astika systems

Six schools of philosophies have been mentioned above. They are divided into three groups (1) Nyaya and Vaiseshika (2) Sankya and Yoga (3) Purva Mimamsa and Vedanta. Nyaya is considered as a pre-requisite for all philosophical enquiries. Vaiseshika is not very much in honour now. The Sankya is not a living faith. Yoga is practiced in practical form. Vedanta is the most popular of all schools today. Purva and Uttara Mimamsa discuss philosophy of Veda. Purva Mimamsa discusses the philosophy of karma kanda and Uttara Mimamsa discusses the spiritual philosophy (esp. Upanishads). Nyaya, Yoga and Uttara Mimamsa say that there is an Ishvara the Lord of All souls. The other three are Nireeswara vaadas. They talk of Atman, but not of Paramatman. Nireeswara vaada is not necessarily Naastika vaada and these Darsanas do lay an equal amount of stress on Dharma and that is the reason they are called Astika Darsanas and not because they accept a Parabrahman different from individual atman. They


differ in their basic tenets like Ishvara. All these Darsanas hold that atman is distinct from Manas (mind), Buddhi (intellect) and Prakruti (nature). They discuss the cause binding, what causes creation and whether creation is an appearance or true in a given state. They also differ in whether atman is identical with Brahman or not. Differentiating these and understanding the uniformity of these is very important both in understanding Hinduism as well as differentiating Hindu from non-Hindu ideology.

Nyaya system:

Sage Gautama was the author of Nyaya Sutras. This Darsana accepts four Pramanas – (a) Pratyaksha (b) Anumana (c) Upamana (d) Shabda. The goal of life is Nisreyasa (freedom from consciousness of matter). This school is known for its system of logic. Some scholars argue that the Greek philosopher Aristotle was influenced by the Nyaya philosophy.

Nyaya system assists all other Darsanas. It is also known as tarka- a method of inference by which the opposite positions are shown to be untenable because they are absurd. It is greatly used in debate. They arrange all things of the world into certain kinds (Padarthas).

The only means to arrive at “Nisreyasa” is through perfect knowledge. The soul’s connection with matter is the cause of its misery. It produces rebirths through activity in connection with matter which leads to desire. Perfect knowledge liberates the soul from its contact with matter. This removes all pain or dukha. In the Nyaya Sutras Gautama clearly analyses the nature of Prakruti, of the soul and the Pramanas. Later Naiyayikas like Udayana explained the problems of Ishvara as the creator of the world and as the first expounder and maker of the Vedas. The world is created by God out of the materials in the form of atoms and the souls. This view suggests that the effect was not previously present in any form in the cause but was brought into being by God. This view is called Asat-karya- vada or Arambhavada.

Vaiseshika system:

This system is considered to be the first philosophy of Nature (Prakruti). Sage Kanada formed the basis for this system. This system accepts three Pramanas- Pratyaksha, Anumana and Shabda. Its goal in life is deliverance. This Darsanas is considered to be the first philosophy of Nature (Prakruti). With help of the Pramanas stated above it arrives at the knowledge of Six Padarthas. The six Padarthas are – (1) Dravya (substance) (2) Guna (quality) (3) Karma (activity) (4) Samanya (generalities) (5) Vishesha (particularity) (6) Samavaya (inherent relations). Some include a seventh Padartha, namely Abhava (non-existence).


Nine kinds of substances form the Dravya- the Five elements in the form of atoms or minute particles – Prithvi, Apas, Tejas, Vayu, Akasa, Manas, Soul, Time and Space form nine kinds of substances. Atoms can exist alone or in aggregate number. Time and space are divisible. Souls are infinite in number. All knowledge of objects is with the instrument of mind. Finite knowledge is with the help of Manas. It operates through the sense organs.

The creation of the world is due to the principle of unforeseen force (Adrista) not God. Nature thus aggregates and disintegrates. The material cause of the world is atoms (or other Dravyas). The efficient cause of the world is Adrista which brings about the activities or Karma into play. The souls are not products of union of the material atoms but self-conscious. Before their union with matter the souls are in a state of self which resembles unconsciousness- “pasanavat”. It is held that their return to that state of bare selfness is Moksha (Nisreyas without consciousness of objects)

Sankya system

Sankya system was founded by Sage Kapila. It is said to be one of the oldest metaphysical worldviews. The word Sankya means count and this system is called so because it describes the world in an enumerative way. The Darsana seeks to understand the Nature (Prakruti) from the point of view of individual psychological consciousness. Kapila Muni is regarded as the father of psychology. The system accepts three Pramanas- Pratyaksha, Anumana and Shabda. It is an Astika Darsana, as it accepts Shabda Pramana. Its goal of life is liberation. Tattva-saakshatkara or True knowledge of the world is the source for liberation. This can be gained through Tattva- abhyasa or learning and meditation. Sankya does not emphasize on the exact method since it is by nature a philosophy. Contemplative state with the intent to know the Tattva is the source of knowledge. This is possible in Yoga through meditation and in the Jnana Marga through Sravana- Manana and Nidhidhyasana.

The cosmic principles of Sankya are of three kinds. (1) Avyakta (Un-manifest Primal nature. It is also called Pradhana, Maya, Mula-Prkruti). (2) Purusha (Absolute consciousness principle which is neither manifest nor un-manifest. This is the Self). (3) Vyakta (the manifest. This emanates because of the association of Purusha and Avyakta). The Sankya explains that Mula-Prkruti is the material cause out of which all elements of the outer world as well as the psychic organs or apparatus of the individuals arise by a process of evolution or manifestation. All these were in a subtle condition in the original state. The original matter is called Pradhana Avyakta because it is undistinguished, it has constant change as its nature or it is active; it comprises of three constituent Gunas; namely Sattva, Rajas and Tamas in a state of equilibrium. It is set into in-equilibrium by the nearness of the soul or Purushas. The intellect is the first evolute of Prakruti and is called Mahat or


the great one. It causes the evolution of ego-sense or self-consciousness. Evolution from self-consciousness is affected by the dominance of Gunas. So the dominance of Sattva causes the evolution of the five organs of perception, five organs of action and the mind. Dominance of Tamas triggers the evolution of five subtle elements– sound, touch, sight, taste, and smell from self-consciousness. These five subtle elements cause the creation of the five gross elements space, air, fire, water and earth. Rajas is cause of action in the evolutes. Since the Sankya system explains the world as transformational manifestation of Prakruti, it is said to uphold Parinama Vada. Prakruti is the creator of the phenomenal world. The beings are veiled from the sentient and eternal consciousness principle Purusha and they realise Purusha as they go through various phases of evolution. The ignorance of the beings and their experiences of the phenomenal world are all creations of Prakruti. She is thus the veil of ignorance Herself and is therefore called Maya. Sankya says, in the manifest world there are 25 principles in all. They are explained in 4 groups as follows-

Group-1: Mula Prakruti: She has no source. She is the source for the world.

Group-2: Saptaka: Mahat (intelligence principle. Born from Prakruti) + Ahamkara (Emanates from Mahat) + 5 Tanmatras (Subtle elements. They have source in Primal nature. They are the source for Primal elements). 7 in all.

Group-3: Sodasaka: (Sixteen Principles). 5 Primal elements of nature (earth, water, fire, air and sky) + 6 Jnanendriyas (including mind) + 5 Karmedriyas. 16 in all

Group-4: Purusha: Chetana

The 24 principles up to group 3 are all Achetanas (not externally conscious). The eternal conscious principle is the 25th- Purusha or the Self. The 24 principles of the Universe cause 3 kinds of experiences – Sukha (happiness), Dukha (grief) and Moha (attachment and illusion). Beings are diverse, in their capabilities, in their Upadhis (faculties of experience). This indeed is the diversity of the Purushas. Purushas are multiple. Each Purusha goes through experiences and takes birth repeatedly until Kaivalya. Prakruti manifests and transforms. But She is insentient. Purusha is sentient but does not act. So, how can they experience. It is possible and can be explained through the analogy of blind and limping man (Pangvaandha Nyaya). If the blind man carries the limping man they can reach their destination. Many principles proposed in the Sankya philosophy are accepted by the later systems like Vedanta. However, existence of Ishvara and the multiplicity of Purusha are not accepted.


Yoga system

Yoga Shastra is one of the oldest systems. The author of Yoga Shastra is Patanjali. The system accepts three Pramanas- Pratyaksha, Anumana and Shabda. According to this system, liberation is the goal of life (Purushartha). It is concerned with the activities of the Chitta, which is said to be the cause of misery. Putting an end to the movements of Chitta is Yoga. It shows that the attainment of the ultimate state is the state of Samadhi, which is changeless, motionless, thoughtless state of consciousness. This is the state of the soul in its perfect nature. Thus the nature of the soul in Yoga Darsana is identical with the state of the soul taught in the Sankya, as consciousness, changeless and activity-less. The control of mental modifications may have to be preceded by the control of the motor organs and sensory organs from running after objects which grant them their satisfaction and stimulation. Withdrawal from the objects of the senses is called Yama and Niyama. The principle of substitution of right kinds of thoughts in place of wrong ones helps in the final suppression of mental activities. Thus Ishvara-dhyana or surrender to God becomes very necessary as Niyama. Asana or control of physical postures also is insisted upon. Pranayama is a means to control the mind. These are all physical purifications leading to the control of Chitta. Pratyahara, dharana and dhyana are the further stages when the mind having been detached from the sensory and motor activities retraces to the control of the Ahamkara and Buddhi, which is achieved by a gradual concentration on one single object and finally on object at all. Ishvara is accepted as the Guru of this path. Unlike the case in Sankya system, wherein Nature brings about involution, in this system Ishvara brings about liberation of individual souls. Ishvara is not considered as the creator but as an exceptional spirit always the master of Prakruti and knower of it, on whom nature can hardly have any effect or influence. Knowledge of Prakruti is said to lead to liberation, but this requires the aid of the ever-liberated Ideal Purusha.

Purva Mimamsa:

Sage Jaimini is the author of this system. The system accepts 6 Pramanas – Pratyaksha, Anumana, Shabda, Upamana (comparison), Arthapatti (implication) and Anupalabdi (non-apprehension). The goal of life is the attainment of heaven. The Mimamsa system is a system of interpretation of Vedic texts. The philosophical view of the Purva Mimamsa system is the same as the Vedic literature. Its concern is with the fundamental faith in the sacrificial performances ordained in the Vedic scriptures which is said to be Dharma. These sacrifices are said to produce results such as attainment of riches, happiness in this world and happiness even after death. Thus causal theory of the effect coming into being after the cause ceased to exist is an important innovation. The sacrifices when performed to the strict vidhis have


the power to bring about the desired results. Even the Gods addressed during the sacrifices have no power in denying the results! Vedic injunctions are regarded as self-evident and absolutely authoritative. Purva- mimamsa having ignored the Gods or subordinated them to causality, also dispensed with the God as an unimportant entity in his search for dharma or sacrificial performances according to the Veda. Vedas are considered as Apaurusheya. And Purva mimamsakas went one step further – they believed granting authorship of Vedas is to commit it to mistakes. Then there were two schools of mimamsakas – (1) Kumarila Bhatta (2) Prabhakara. The first one tried to establish the self-evident authority of Vedas without postulating God or admitting his authorship of the Vedas. The latter asserted God and His authorship of the Vedas. Thus the Purva mimamsakas accepted the complete validity of the Veda, the eternity and reality of the souls and universe. They accepted the existence of God also, though not as the author of the Veda, but as its Teacher.

Uttara Mimamsa or Vedanta

Sage Veda Vyasa is regarded as the author of this system. He wrote an authoritative text called Brahma sutras. It accepts 6 Pramanas – Pratyaksha, Anumana, Upamana, Agama, Ardhapatti and Anupalabdi. The ultimate goal of life is Moksha – the fourth Purushartha. Vedanta is the philosophy of Upanishads. Rishis were leading the disciple to the final experiences of the Ultimate Reality, which they called as Brahman. For the person who knows or attains Brahman it is a release from the bondage of Samsara. Badarayana or Veda Vyasa tried to bring about a synthesis or Samanvaya of Upanishads. Yet there have arisen apparently divergent views such as Sri Shankara’s Advaita, Sri Ramanuja’s Vishishtadvaita and Sri Madhava’s Dvaita. Inspite of their differences there were acceptances on many points. Brahman is one Reality and He is pure and the ultimate Self – Sat Cit Ananda. He is beyond all description and determinations but He is indeed verily the power and reality that makes everything possible. Thus he is Nirguna, beyond all qualities and yet He is omnipervasive, omnipotent, omnibeneficient and Ishvara and so on. He is subtler than the subtle and greater than the great. He is this immanent in all and transcendent to all. In other words He is both the material and efficient cause of the Universe. Brahman is everything – Sarvam Kalvidam Brahman. He is without a second – Ekam eva advitiyam. These passages from Upanishads show the ultimate monism of Brahman. It is clear that Vedanta leaves much room for different levels of experience. The several Upasanas or methods of meditation on Brahman are, in fact, are at once knowledge and meditation for the attainment of Divyanubhava. Both Sri Ramanuja and Sri Madhava consider that the highest joy comes from devotion and service to God.


Maharshi Veda Vyasa

A special mention about Maharshi Veda Vyasa and his contribution to Vedic literature has to be understood by every Indian

Maharshi VedaVyasa wrote all the 18 Puranas and the 18 Upa-Puranas as well. In addition he has written the massive Itihasa – the Mahabharata. He also wrote the Brahma Sutras. He has organized and arranged the Vedas into four Vedas that we see today – Rig, Yajur, Sama and Atharva Veda.

Every scripture in Hinduism begins with salutations to Bhagavan Sri Veda Vyasa. No name in Indian history invokes such reverential sentiment and stirs such widespread awe as that of this Rishi. He is the greatest seer, Guru, author, poet and philosopher the world has ever seen. He is regarded as an incarnation of Lord Maha Vishnu Himself. In India we celebrate Vyasa Poornima in his honour.



Chapter V – Principal Upanishads

The Upanishads are part of a very long tradition of knowledge, which has been developing over many thousands of years. This tradition is not just a dead relic from the past. It is very much alive today. It is a living tradition that has been passed down in an unbroken line from teacher to disciple, through all the social, cultural, scientific and technological upheavals that have taken place.

Our problem is whether this traditional knowledge is helpful to us at present. Our exclusive devotion to technical and economic interests in the contemporary age has obscured the concept of reality and value. It is true that human nature is not altogether unchanging. It does change. However, it is also true that it does remain sufficiently constant to justify the study of ancient classics. The problems of human life and destiny have not been superseded by the stunning achievements of science, technology or commerce. The solutions offered by the ancient classics, though conditioned in their modes of expression by their time, have not been seriously affected by the march of modern achievements. The Upanishads, though remote in time from us, are not remote in thought. Disclosing the working of the primal impulses of human soul these classics rise above the differences of race and geographical location.

There is a view that Indian philosophy started with Upanishads otherwise known as Vedanta (end of the Veda or the concluding portion). Yet, there is a distinct difference between what is on offer between the Vedas and the Upanishads. Vedas deal with the three Gunas – Sattva, Rajas and Tamas. They have the three Gunas as the motives to attain power, pleasure and heavenly residence. Vedas tell stories about various Gods; they prescribe rituals for making use of the Gods’ divine powers to attain prosperity and other objectives. In other words Vedas taught the attainment of inferior ends (Purusharthas) which are known to be closely connected with the three Gunas, rather than Moksha which it was the function of Upanishads to teach. Though they both are from one single Shastra, Vedas offer the means to attain transient good while the Upanishads teach means to attain the eternal good. It is in this sense, perhaps, some scholars saw in the Upanishads germs of the pessimistic view since they discard the pursuit of social efficiency for the attainment of liberation from Avidya (which comprises of all technical knowledge and hedonistic pleasure ends) and Samsara for the transcendent condition of immortality which can only be won by Vidya.


Yet Upanishads have not discarded the earlier portions of the Veda or the gods praised therein. Indeed they have on the other hand, tended to make clear the implications of the Veda in such a way as to help the understanding of the enquiring mind.

Having studied the about Vedas, the mantras and the rituals contained therein, we arrive at the concluding sections- the Upanishads. And the Upanishads leave all the cosmology and applied knowledge behind. It is not the basic concern of the Upanishads to describe world, or to achieve the various objects that people desire. Their basic objective is philosophy. In a brief and uncompromising way, they ask questions about knowledge itself. They are not interested with all the descriptions and the pictures that have been built on top of our knowledge. Beneath the pictures and descriptions, they want to find out just what we really know. They repeatedly question about what happiness really is. The question is blunt – Is it permanently available once the objects that we pursue have been achieved?

The Upanishads are rather plain and straightforward. They do not construct any complex system of ideas and beliefs. Questioning such as this is not very common. For a resisting and a closed mind it appeared as a very complicated process not meant for an ordinary man. In fact, it progresses by asking questions – simple and straight forward. The search is for plain truth. Studying books such as Upanishads was not very common as they were reputed to be difficult to understand.

Upanishads are concerned with that knowledge which is common to all experience, anywhere. As they point out, this knowledge cannot be restricted to any names or forms or qualities. They can-not be bounded to any books or words- certainly not to any social classes or cultural systems or to any geographical locations. In the end it can only be taught and learned in one place – in each individual’s direct experience. It is for this reason a lot of emphasis is laid on direct learning from a teacher. Therein lays the universality of approach.

Times have changed. There is no longer any need to hide philosophical enquiry, from ordinary life and education. In recent times, Upanishads have begun to be translated and interpreted for ordinary people. A number of commentaries are now available for a common man. In the works of classical commentators, we find the great oral traditions of interpretation which have been current in their time. Centuries of careful thought lie behind these traditions as they finally took shape. It would be a great mistake to neglect the work of the commentators. Chiefly due to the fact that there are words and passages in the Upanishads of which we could make little sense without the help of the commentators.


The Upanishads are most important and are equally difficult to understand. The difficulty arises because of the subjects they treat. They are not telling us a story like what the Epics and the Puranas do. Also, the Upanishads are not prayers offered to some god which we can just chant every day as a routine of practice. They do not tell us how to perform rituals or gestures of worship as we do in temples or altars of adoration. They tell us something quite different from all these things. What is this difference which marks the Upanishads? They deal with our Self.

The Upanishads are not telling us about any god. Then, what is it that the Upanishads talk about? It is speaking about God, but not about the God that we usually think of in our mind according to our upbringing, culture, language or tradition. It refers to God and it refers to nothing else. The ‘do’s’ and ‘don’ts’ that fill the texture of every religion in the world do not appear in the Upanishads. References on something that has to be done and something that should not be done will not be found in the Upanishads. The question of this dichotomy does not arise in the Upanishads.

Number of Upanishads

There are 108 traditional Upanishads. Of these 10 are regarded as principal Upanishads. (1) Isavasya (2) Kena (3) Katha (4) Prashana (5) Mundaka (6) Mandukya (7) Taittiriya (8) Aitereya (9) Chandogya (10) Brhadaranyaka. Sri Shankara bhagavatpada wrote commentaries on all these Upanishads as well as on Shvetashvatara, Kausitaki and Mahanarayana. These together with Maitri, constitute 14 Upanishads. Some scholars regard 10 as the principal Upanishads and some others regard these 14 as the principal ones. All these belong to the Shruti literature.

Some of the Upanishads are associated with renowned sages such as Aruni, Yajnavalkya, Balaki, Shvetaketu and Shandilya. They are thought to be exponents of the doctrines attributed to them.

The mode of transmittal of knowledge in Upanishads basically consists of a teacher and a taught because no Upanishadic study is complete without the presence of a Guru. As a result, in the Upanishads the contents are explained through the words of the Guru.

In the Upanishads we come across “Vidyas”. Essentially, the Vidyas lead one from the unreal to the Real, from mortality to Immortality. They lead the soul from the Moola-Ajnana to the highest Brahman. Sri Shankaracharya says in his Brahma-Sutra-Bhashya that even those who go to Saguna-Brahman (through


Vidya-Upasanas) will ultimately go to Nirguna-Brahman. We come across about 28 Vidyas in the Upanishads

A summary of the principal Upanishads is discussed below – Isavasya Upanishad

The Isavasya Upanishad is the only one which occurs in the Samhita portion of the Veda. All the others come as appendices or follow-ups of the Brahmanas or the Aranyakas. Therefore, there is a special intonation required in the recitation of the Isavasya Upanishad, as is the case with the Samhitas of the Vedas. We cannot read the verses casually, just like reading a book. There is a special modulation and intonation of voice – swara, as it is called. This swara aspect of recitation is not emphasized as much in the other Upanishads as is the case with the Isavasya Upanishad. It derives its name from Isavasya. It is one of the shortest Upanishads and belongs to the Yajur Veda.

Four types of knowledge are imparted to us by this Upanishad.

(a) TheCreatorpervadesthewholeofcreation.

(b) Everyoneistodoone’sduty.

(c) Knowledgeandactionhavetobecombinedandnotbeconsideredas opposites.

(d) WeshouldviewGodandtheworldasbeinginastateofharmony,not as opposed to each other. (There is no difference between creation and God.)

(a) The first mantra of the Isavasya Upanishad says :

Isavasyam idam sarvam yat kim ca jagatyam jagat, tena

tyaktena bhunjitha, ma gridhah kasyasvid dhanam

This mantra says: “All this is enveloped by the Supreme Being.” The creator whom we call God, manifests the universe, creates this universe. In what manner does He create the universe? It is a very big question and a complex one too. We shall not go into that now.

Some conclusions that come out of this are – there is something that cannot be divided into parts, which is infinite in nature, which is existing everywhere to such an extent that it may appear that is the


only thing existing. That only-existing thing is Ishvara about which Isavasya speaks about.

The great sage of the Upanishad tells us “yat kim ca jagatyam jagat tat sarvam – whatever is apparently moving or not moving – all that is Ishvara.” The Supreme Being is not merely everywhere – He is also everything.

Knowing this, we pass on to the second part of this Mantra- “tena tyaktena bhunjitha, ma gridhah kasyasvid dhanam”

This says be happy without the sense of possessiveness in regard to any object. It is commonly believed that possession and acquisition lead to happiness. But the Upanishad says that possession is not the way for being happy. In fact, there is no such thing as procession. For obvious reasons, a thing outside totally cannot become yours. That which is capable of leaving you, for any reason whatsoever, cannot belong to you. A thing that is yours cannot leave you. Anything which can leave you one day or the other is not yours, and there is nothing in this world which will not leave you one day or the other. Therefore, it cannot be considered as yours. Therefore, renounce attachment. It is another way of saying renounce the sense of possession.

Happiness is a state of being and not a consequence of possessing. Therefore, enjoy and be happy.

Summarizing- All this that you perceive, see, or contact through the sense organs is enveloped by God.”

One great thinker said that if all the scriptures in the world were destroyed and if only this mantra is available to us, we need not learn anything else afterwards. Let this one mantra remain and all the scriptures be destroyed. This one verse is sufficient to save us:

“Isavasyam idam sarvam yat kim ca jagatyam jagat, tena tyaktena bhunjitha, ma gridhah kasyasvid dhanam”


(b) The second mantra says: “Everyone has to do something.”

While the concept of Absolute is the subject of the first mantra the


concept of individuality is the subject of the second mantra.

Very often a man may be tempted to think “I shall keep quiet because God does all things and He is all things”? This is an erroneous notion about yourself. A wrong concept about your individuality has crept in. The Upanishad says “Do not be in a hurry. Go slowly. Do such things that will gradually widen the concept of your personality, or individuality. Act in a way commensurate with the supreme universal personality of God Himself. This is done by the duty which is to be performed.”

That brings us to the question of “what is duty”? You may do some work by way of participation towards the welfare of a larger whole. If you have done this considering it as your duty even while it involves personal sacrifice then that work has some value in it. It can be called duty.

A person who has not understood the meaning of the first mantra will not understand the meaning of the second mantra either. You will not be able to understand what duty is, in the sense of this self-sacrifice for the welfare of the whole, unless you know what the whole is. The ultimate whole is the Absolute being. Perform your duty as a participation in the work of this evolutionary process of creation and not as an individual initiative on your part. In duty, you cooperate with the existent order of things. You do not start independent initiatives which will not be regarded as commensurate with the requirements of the organization of the universe.

The third point that is driven into our minds by the Isavasya Upanishad is – Knowledge and action have to be combined and not be considered as opposites. In other words – that there is no conflict between meditation and action, or knowledge and work.

Many of us think that knowledge means knowing something – reading books, accumulating information, having a degree, and acquaintance with the sciences and the arts of the world. But, knowledge is not necessarily this. The inner essence is not gained by ordinary academic reading. True knowledge is the insight into the being of things, the Self of all things. A feeling of conflict between knowledge and action appear to arise because


of the feeling that the aim of knowledge is not in harmony with the aim of work. In actual fact, knowledge and action go together. Understanding must precede action, and action without understanding is a mechanical routine.

One important point that we must remember is – all actions are not liberating. Only those actions that are performed without expecting any benefits for doing them, count for liberation. Both the means and the ends have some connection. You cannot adopt one kind of means and expect another kind of end. Knowledge and action go together because action is nothing but the movement of knowledge itself. Everything that you do from the point of view of this knowledge of the Upanishad is God Himself working through you.

(d) The fourth instruction is – There is no difference between creation and God. God is not outside the world, and the world is not outside God. God is not extra-cosmic, as some thinkers may tell us. The pervasion of God in all creation rules out any kind of extra-cosmic existence of God.

Let us take the case of a potter making a pot. The potter is only an efficient cause; he is not the material cause. That is, he himself does not become the pot; he has an external material like clay. However, in the case of God – there is nothing like an external material. He is infinite and He is everything. The cosmos is His revelation. He is as He was – in the past and in the present and He will be in the same condition in future as well.

The Divine who is the Nourisher and Ruler, Seer, Death and In-dwelling self, and our father and Supreme Light is the Foremost Fire or Will within us. He is undiminished in every one of his descents and is ever full:

Purnamadah purnamidam purnatpurnamudacyate! Purnasya purnahtadaya purnam eva avasisyate !!

Kena Upanishad

Like the Isavasya, this Upanishad derives its name from the opening word of the text, Kena–ishitam, “by whom directed.” It is also known as the Talavakara Upanishad because of its place as a chapter in the Talavakara–Brahmana of the Sama–Veda.

Among the Upanishads it is one of the most analytical and metaphysical; Its purpose being to lead the mind from the gross to the subtle, from the effect to the cause. By a series of profound questions and answers, it seeks to locate the


source of man’s being; and to expand his self–consciousness until it has become identical with God–Consciousness.

It is in this Upanishad that we find the famous words

“He who thinks he does not know It – knows It. He who thinks he knows It – does not know It.”

The true knowers think they can never know it (because of It is infinitude), while the ignorant think they know It.”

“Those who know do not speak; those who speak do not know.”

It has four sections, the first two in verse form and the other two in prose. The verse form deals with the Supreme Unqualified Brahman, the absolute principle underlying the phenomenal world and the prose form deals with the Supreme as God, Ishvara. The knowledge of the Absolute is possible only for those who are able to withdraw their thoughts from the worldly objects and concentrate on the ultimate fact of the universe. The knowledge of Ishvara puts him on the path way to deliverance in course of time. Such a worshipping soul gradually acquires the higher wisdom which results in the consciousness of identity with the Supreme.

The Upanishad opens with a few basic questions put by a sincere and inquisitive student of Brahma Vidya to his Guru. He asks his teacher:

1. Who commands and directs the mind to illumine its objects?

2. At whose command does the life-force (prana) function?

3. At whose will do men utter speech?

4. What power directs the eyes and the ears (and other sense organs) towards their respective objects?

An ordinary man hears, sees, thinks, and he is happy that he can do all this. He is not keen to find out what stands behind the ear or eye or mind. His conception does not go beyond the little circle of his bodily life. In fact, he has no interest to find out what really enables his senses and organs to perform their tasks. The sense organs like mind, eyes, ear, etc, are powerless by themselves. They require some power to make them function. What is that power? It is the source of all power which is described as Brahman or the Self. Brahman is the Supreme Reality on which everything rests. The layers of transmission of energy from the Cosmic Soul to the individual soul, from the individual soul to the intellect, from the intellect to the mind, from the mind to the Prana, from the Prana to the body


and from there to the sense organs are not well known. Neither is the body really alive and active, nor are the sense organs capable of perceiving things as you imagine. Neither is it true that the Prana is working of its own accord, nor can you think through the mind independently; nor is it true that you understand through your intellect; nor is it true that you are existing even as an individual isolated being, but for the fact of the power of the Universal Self.

These physical eyes are unable to perceive that subtle essence which is called the Brahman. Nor can it be expressed by finite language or known by finite intelligence, because it is infinite. Our conception of knowing finite things is to know their name and form; but knowledge of Brahman is distinct from such knowledge. These physical eyes are unable to perceive that subtle essence which is called the Brahman. Nor can it be expressed by finite language or known by finite intelligence, because it is infinite. Our conception of knowing finite things is to know their name and form (e.g. an elephant); but knowledge of Brahman is distinct from such knowledge. Whenever we perceive an object through our senses (direct perception, touch, smell etc) we try to recognize it by its species, quality, function or relationship (jaati, guna, kriya, visheshana). However, the does not possess any of these differentiating characters (like Jaati, guna etc). Hence it is difficult to clearly describe the nature Brahman to others. The Upanishad narrates a story to illustrate the point. Briefly it is given here-

The Devas won an important victory over the Asuras. The Devas were elated and started celebrating the victory and were shouting “ this victory is ours and the glory is ours only”. The Great Being, God Almighty, thought, “These Gods, are thinking that they have won the victory and all the strength comes from them. Let me teach them a lesson.” This Great Being appeared as some frightening spectre and sat on the top of a tree, near the abode of the gods. The gods just beheld it. “What is this peculiarly structured spectre?” they wondered. All the gods went to Indra and said, “Sir, something frightening is sitting on the top of a tree.” Indra called one of his emissaries, the God Agni, and said, “Go and find out what it is. Agni went and looked at this spectre, and It asked, “Who are you? “I am Agni, the God of fire. “Oh, I see. What can you do?. I can burn anything to ashes. The whole earth I can reduce to ashes,” replied Agni. “I see,” said the spectre. It placed a little piece of grass in front of Agni and asked him to burn it. It was an insult to Agni. “You are asking me to burn a piece of grass”. Agni ran with great speed to burn it to ashes, but he could not even move it, let alone burn it. He tried again and again, and he failed in the attempt to burn the blade of grass though he had the strength to burn the whole earth. He could not understandwhat had happened. He went back and told Indra, “I cannot understand who the creature is. “Send another person.


Next Indra sent Vayu. He too came back deflated and completely baffled. Then Indra went personally to investigate. The spectre had vanished. He met with Shakti of the Universe. She told “What you saw was the Supreme Creator Himself. You were under the impression that you won victory over the demons. How wrong can you be?.

What strength do you have? You cannot lift even a blade of grass. All the strength came from that Supreme Being. He was operating through you, and you felt that you did the work. In order to subdue your ego, the Creator came in this form and taught you a lesson.” Having said this, the Goddess vanished from that place.

Katha Upanishad

`The Katha Upanishad is probably the most widely known of all the Upanishads. It has been translated into many languages. English, German, French and other writers have all agreed in pronouncing it as one of the most perfect expressions of the religion and philosophy of the Vedas.

There is no consensus of opinion regarding the place of this Upanishad in Vedic literature. Some authorities declare it to belong to the Yajur–Veda, others to the Sama–Veda, while a large number put it down as a part of the Atharva–Veda. The story is first suggested in the Rig–Veda; it is told more definitely in the Yajur– Veda. In the Katha Upanishad it appears fully elaborated and interwoven with the loftiest Vedic teaching.

It contains the famous dialogue between Nachiketa and Yama, the lord of departed spirits. Nachiketa’s father, in a rage, inadvertently promises his son to Yama as a sacrifice, and to keep his promise, promptly sends him to the doors of Yama’s abode. Finding Yama absent, Nachiketa was kept waiting for three days at the doors, without food or water. Yama, on his return, apologizes to Nachiketa as no guest is to be treated in such a manner in his household. He offers three boons to Nachiketa. Return to his father in earth and the meaning of the sacrificial fire were the first two boons granted without hesitation.

Now for the third one, Nachiketa asked, “What happens to the soul after death? After the death of this body or it may be after the death of the individuality itself – in either case, what happens to the soul?”

The third boon was to explain the meaning of death, which even Yama, the Lord of Death finds it difficult to explain. Refusing to take alternative offers of worldly blessings, Nachiketa’s persistently questions about death and immortality. This forms the philosophical discourse in Katha Upanishad.


The Lord of Death, Yama, starts his reply by these words – “There are two paths available for every person in this world: the way of the good and the way of the pleasant. The choice is up-to the individual to choose.

The good is called “sreyas” and the pleasant is called “preyas”. These are the two roads you can tread; you can either choose what is good or you can choose that what is pleasant for you.

Lord Yama advises that the correct choice for a person to take is the first alternative. It is improper for any person to choose the pleasant path, because the good does not always look pleasant and the pleasant is certainly not always good. That which appears as the pleasant is nothing but the reaction of the sense organs in respect of objects outside. The pleasantness is not something existing in the object outside. The pleasantness is only in the sensations – a reaction of the sense organs.

Choosing the good is the correct path. But then what is good? It must always be good for you. It should not be a time variant. Good for some time and not so good at other times.

Is there such a thing?

That which is commensurate with the needs of the soul may be regarded as good. Why? The body and parts of the body are impermanent. The soul is permanent. The impermanent cannot satisfy the permanent. When we talk about “good for the soul” we are not referring social goodness or conduct goodness. We refer to the spiritual goodness. It is not a goodness that lasts for some time only, or will apply to some people only, or suitable for certain conditions only. It is good for all conditions, for all times and for all individuals.

Yet Nachiketa’s question was – what happens to the soul? We get a vague answer from the Katha Upanishad. A more robust and satisfying answer is found in the Chandogya Upanishad and the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad. Tentatively Lord Yama answers that when the body is shed, one takes a re-birth. One can be re-born as anything, according to the thoughts and the feelings entertained by the person during the tenure of the person. Thoughts that enter your mind at the moment of your death are very deciding. If you think you can cheat the system by enjoying a life with a gay abandon and yet come up with some appropriate thoughts at the last hour – you are mistaken. You never know when and how your last hour will come up. And the last thoughts are but an essence of all thoughts entertained in your life.


Why do you have to have re- birth? It is necessary to fulfil the desires that you could not fulfil till date. But in the realization of the Self, which is universal in its nature, desires get extinguished. All your desires melt in the light of the Self. This is Nirvana.

What happens to the soul after death?” is the question raised by Nachiketa. “Ordinarily, rebirth takes place,” is the answer. And most people in the world are ordinary people, because everyone has a desire of some kind or the other. Everyone is filled with egoism, a self-assertive nature; therefore, everyone will be reborn. If you have to be reborn, it is good to be born in more advanced circumstances. If you live like a tree, you may become a tree. if you live like an animal, you may become an animal. If you conduct yourself in a humanitarian way, you will be reborn as a very good human being. We said you will be re-born till all your desires are exhausted. What happens to the person who has no desires? Yama says, I shall tell you about the man, the person who has no desires.

He who has no desires of any kind is called-“Nishkama”.

Apta-kama is one who has fulfilled all desires. Atma-kama refers to one who

loves only the Self.

Only he who has love for the Universal Self can be said to have fulfilled all desires; every other person has some extraneous desire.

What happens to such a person when he departs from the body?

He will not depart. We generally say the soul departs. In the case of a Self- realized soul, no departure takes place. It sinks then and there into the Absolute, like a bubble in the ocean. When the bubble in the ocean bursts, it does not travel some distance; it dissolves itself into the bosom of the sea.

They become one with the very Existence, then and there, here and now. They neither have to go to heaven, nor to Brahma-loka

The question of going arises only because of the concept of space and time. A timeless Eternity, which is the true essence of the soul of a person, does not travel to any place. It melts instantly into Pure Existence.

The Soul is Absolute and, hence, it enters the Absolute. This is what we gather from the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad. So much detail is not found in the Katha Upanishad .Many other things are casually mentioned by way of a tentative elucidation of the answer expected by Nachiketa.


Prashna Upanishad

Prashna Upanishad comes from the Brahmana portion of the Atharva Veda belonging to the Pippaladasakha. It has 67 mantras spread over 6 chapters. The word “Prashna” means question. This Upanishad, like a number of other Upanishads, relies on the technique of questions and answers to explain a number of serious issues. It discusses more elaborately some topics dealt with briefly in the Mundakopanishad and for that reason it is considered as a commentary on that Upanishad. Much of the Mundakopanishad is in the form of verses with only a few passages being in the prose form. The Prasna Upanishad is just the opposite.

Six students, interested in knowing Brahman, come to Sage Pippalada requesting him to clarify their doubts. The sage asks them to take up penance for one year at his place and at the end of that period he will be willing to clarify all their doubts. The six students were (a) Sukesa, son of Bharadwaja (b) Satyakama, son of Sibi (c) Sauryayanee, born in the family of Garga (d) Kausalya, son of Ashwala (e) Bhargava belonging to Bhrigu gotra (f) Kabandhi the son of Katya.

The text consists of basically six questions asked of sage Pippalada. His answers form a dissertation on the question of creation, human personality and metaphysical principle in man.

These students already knew about Saguna Brahman or Brahman with qualities (Apara Brahman). Now they want to know about Supreme Brahman – Brahman without qualities (Para Brahman). According to then existing tradition they carried firewood in their hands to meet the teacher Pippalada who is described as Bhagavan because of his great qualities. An offering of firewood to a teacher is a symbol of respect, humility and keenness to learn on the part of a student.

The six questions are given below-

1. What is the origin of all created beings?

2. Who protects and guards created beings and who among them is supreme? This relates to the constituents of human personality

3. How does the Chaitanya (Prana) enter the body and get diverted into five channels? How does it leave the body? How does it sustain the universe without and within? This refers to the nature and origin of Prana.


4.. Which are the senses that operate in the three stages – the waking, dreaming and sleeping? Who is that in whom all these are established? This is about the psychological aspect of the human personality.

5. What is the result of worshipping Omkara throughout one’s life? This is about Pranava Upasana.

6.. Where is that Supreme Being, the Person of sixteen forms? This relates to the metaphysical principle in man.

1st Question – From where have all these creatures come?

The first question was raised by Kabandi. And the question was – from where have all these creatures come? The sage replied that Prajapati, the creator, was desirous of a progeny. He performed austerities and then created the pair – Moon the matter (rayi- food) and the Sun, the energy (Prana-). He thought the pair would produce manifold beings for him. Wherever there is manifestation of life and energy, it is due to the influence of the Sun. The Sun is being glorified as the nourisher of all life, the illuminator of all forms of matter and the provider of energy for sustenance of life as well as matter. In addition, the Shruti says, our life, both within and without, is nothing but a play of the Sun and the Moon.

Time, represented by the Year, is indeed the Lord of Creation- Prajapati . He has two paths – the Southern and the Northern. Those who perform Ishtapoorta (sacrifices and charitable works) the World of the Moon and after a while they return. Hence, those attached to the material life go to the Chandraloka. They will return to this world again and again.

In contrast, those who sought the Atman by austerity, abstinence, faith and knowledge attain the Aditya by the North pole. They do not return. The soul goes through the Devayana (path of Gods) to the world of Aditya and from there to Brahmaloka. Eventually he merges with the Brahman. This is known as Krama mukti (gradual liberation)

So far we have seen the glorification of Sun. Now the Upanishad talks about Prajapati – the Lord of creation. Time which is measured with reference to Sun is emphasized by calling it Prajapati. Time is the field in which creation operates. Prajapati, indeed, is the time or the year / season/ month/ day/ night.

2nd Question – Who protects and guards the created beings and who among them is supreme?

The second question was raised by Bhargava of Vidarbha.


The question was – Who protects and guards the created beings and who among them is supreme?

The sage replies that the supporting is done by the Prana, the vital energy. However, the scriptures refer to Five Pranas. Though there is only one Prana, It is an allegoric representation in order to make the functionality clearer. The Five Pranas, (Pancha Pranas) are – (a) Prana (b) Apana (c) Samana (d) Udana (e) Vyana. They function in maintaining the body. Even the mind is dependent on the Prana. The mental activities are but the expressions of the same energy that function through the body and senses. The Upanishad mentions that even the Vedas are also fixed in Prana (may be due to their recitation depends on the Prana or they have their original manifestation in Hiranyagarbha, the Universal mind or Prana).

Our bodies have five sense organs (Jnana Indriyas) and five organs of action (karma Indriyas). The body cannot function without these Indriyas. However, these Indriyas are made of matter and hence they are inert. By themselves they cannot function. It is the Prana that keeps the body functionality going. Refer to the following table.







Respiration- Inhaling and exhaling




Evacuation or excretion of waste

Anus & Genitals



Circulation – Pervades the nerves of the body

Entire body



Reaction or pushing upwards. Maintains the heat in the body




Assimilation or digestion of food

Central region of the body

Prana is conceived as the nucleus of all energy both within the body and without in the larger universe. It is the power that vitalizes the matter in life. It is not just the air we breathe in and breathe out. According to some commentators, of the different forms of Prana, it is Apana that controls the organ of speech; Vyana of hearing; Prana (breath) of seeing; and Samana, of thinking. If Prana leaves the body none of those forms can function and the organs will become inactive.

The Prana is invisible. The eye cannot see it. Yet, the eye cannot function without it. The ear cannot hear it. Yet, the ear cannot function without it. In the same way, other Indriyas cannot function without the Prana.


3rd Question – What is meant by Prana and what is its Origin?

The first question dealt with the creation of the gross physical body. The second was concerned with the Prana which vitalizes the body and without which the body would disintegrate.

By now the students are very curious to know more about the Prana. The student Aswalayana Kausalya raises a third question seeking further clarification on Prana – Its origin, entrance into the body, its functioning and departure from the body.

The sage replies as follows –

The Prana comes from the Self or Atman. An example of the relationship between a body and the shadow cast by it is given here. The shadow does not have an existence independent of the body. You can neither catch it nor separate it from the body. It is merely a projection of the substance. Similarly, Prana is a projection of the Self – Atman

How does Prana enter the body? A man’s present life is a result of his thoughts in his previous existence. And this body is a result of our desires, our decisions, resolutions and actions of our previous life. So the Upanishad points out that the mind creates the body. As you think so you become. So this text makes a reference to the doctrine of rebirth – an important concept in Vedanta.

The nucleus of all activities of the body is the Prana. It gets its work done through Upa-Pranas or secondary Pranas just as a king gets his work done by his subordinates. Each of these Upa-Pranas have their own work areas and they operate from specified action centres so to say. However, it must be noted that there is only one vital-breath or Prana. Different names are given to it on account of the different duties it performs in the body. The fivefold nature is a functional division. The following table indicates the locations at the physical level and the functions of the Pancha Pranas (five vital airs)

The Prana dwells in the eye, the ears, nose and mouth enabling them to see, to hear, inhale and exhale and speak. The Apana is in the organs of excretion and procreation and initiates the process of discharge of the wastes and procreation. Between the Prana and Apana, in the region of the navel is located Samana. The body energy and vitality produced by digestion is equally distributed by its function. The lotus like heart is the seat the subtle Atman known as Lingatma. From within the space of the heart seventy thousand energy channels branch


out. Prana moves through all these channels giving energy to all the limbs and senses. For this reason, it is also referred to as Vyana.

As for the Udana, it raises by the Susumna-nadi (One of the energy channels) which goes up to the top of the head taking the soul after it and departs the body. It reaches regions of the blessed or that of the condemned depending upon the good or bad actions performed. Evidently, Udana is the subtle aspect of the Prana which not only pervades the whole system, but also controls the Linga sharira (subtle body) in which the soul resides.





Parallel at cosmic level



Respiration- inhaling and exhaling

Moves in mouth & nose and dwells in ear and eye (seven openings)




Evacuation of wastes and procreation

Anus and genitals




Circulation – pervades the nerves of the body

Entire body




Pushing upwards- maintains heat in the body – leads the soul at death





Assimilation & distribution of food

Central region of the body


The Upanishad then goes on to state that the five forms of life-breath in the human body (microcosm or Vyashti) has an equivalent macrosystem (Samashti) in the cosmic counterpart. The table gives the details.

The following is a pictorial representation


Vedanta Categorizes all human wants into three categories – (a) desire for progeny (b) desire for name and fame (c) desire for wealth. Desire for progeny points to relationship with others in the society. Pippalada suggests that he who meditates on the truth that one’s own microcosmic form with its activity centres is in a nutshell a miniature universe will find his relationship with others congenial. He attains the immortal nature of Prana.

4th Question – What ar they that sleep in Man ? What are they that remain awake in Him? Which diety is it that seeks dreams ? whose is the happess ? In whom, again are all thse gathered together ?

The fourth question is raised by Sauryayanin, belonging to the family of Garga. He asked – “Sir, what are they that sleep in man? What are they that remain awake in him? Which deity is


it that sees dreams? Whose is the happiness? In whom, again, are all these gathered together?”

Cessation of physical activities distinguishes sleep from waking state. The waking stage is the period of our experience. Sense organs are active in this state. Sleep is not like waking state. Hence during the sleeping state all Indriyas (both Jnana Indriyas (5 in number-ear, skin, eyes, tongue and nose) and Karma Indriyas (5 in number- speech, hands, legs, anus, genitals) – retire into their very source, the mind. Apart from the organs of knowledge and action even the instruments of perception, feeling and comprehension also retire in sleep. The following table gives some details.


Name of organ



Presiding deity



Receives stimuli from the organs of perception from external sources

Indecision or doubt




Analyses situations or stimuli received & determines cognition faculty

Decision making




Sense of doer-ship & enjoyership





Recollection of past experiences or events

Storehouse or memory


The teacher explains this by giving an example of the Sun.

The rays of the Sun appear as if they are withdrawn temporarily and deposited in the Sun’s orb for the night. At dawn the rays spring back.

The flames of Prana alone remain awake at the time of sleep. Even while the senses remain inactive, the different Pranas keep watch over the body. Pippalada compares the activities of the Pranas to that during the performance of Yajna. The mind as an important organ in this virtual Yajna, for it offers the senses and objects as oblations to the ever wakeful fire of Prana and yearns for experiencing the bliss of Brahman in a dreamless sleep.


The question of ‘which deity is that which witnesses the dreams’ is also answered. The answer is the mind with the senses gathered into it that experiences the dreams. .Dreaming is the feature of the mind and not that of the Self. When the senses lie dormant in sleep, the mind builds up in a dream a world of its own out of impressions gathered during the awakened state. All the different parts of the dream are impressions of actual experiences – may have been gathered at different times or different places. They are all curiously and fantastically linked together by the mind in sleep. In this state the controlling power of both reason and will is absent. So, in a dream, you end up experiencing things or circumstances you have never before seen or experienced. In the Vedanta three states of consciousness are described.

(a). Waking state: A person is conscious of the physical world outside

(b) Dreamstate:Apersonisconsciousoftheinnerworldandobjectscreated from impressions gathered during the waking state

(c) Dreamless sleep: Consciousness is free from duality of subject and object and one experiences the feeling of undifferentiated awareness.

These three states are common to all – for both ignorant as well as enlightened. The sense organs do not function, the mind is inactive and the Prana keeps a watch over the body.

There is a fourth state called Turiya, or pure consciousness or immortal. There are some basic differences between these two states of dreamless sleep and Turiya. The following table highlights some of the differences.


Bliss during dreamless sleep

Bliss during Turiya


The state is attained by chance

State attained after meditation


Bliss is not permanent

Bliss is permanent and everlasting


Consciousness experienced is covered by layers of ignorance

Consciousness is covered by the knowledge of Brahman


The ignorant ones attain no fruits

The enlightened ones experience the knowledge of the Brahman


A normal person after waking up from deep sleep continues to lead his normal life of ignorance

The knower of Brahman never forgets his real nature and knows it as the bliss of the Brahman.


Explaining Sushupti, the state of deep sleep the teacher gives an example. Just like a bird after a daylong of flying goes to its nest, takes rest and returns fully refreshed we too go back to our resting place and come back refreshed.

Jagadguru Adi Shankara explains that during the waking state we are by our ignorance, desires and actions (avidya, kama and karma). Our ignorance leads to desires which in turn end up in our actions – some good and some bad. We get trapped in a cycle of Karya and karana. During deep sleep we are free from these.

Our condition then is advayam, ekam, sivam and shantam – there is no duality (advayam); there is only one – consciousness (ekam); there is then peace (shantam) and auspiciousness (sivam). All Indriyas ( all 5 organs of knowledge – Ear, Skin, eyes, tongue and nose completely retire in sleep; also the 5 organs of action – Speech (Vaak), Hands, Legs, Anus and Genitals and inner instruments of perception 4 in number- Mans, Buddhi, Antahkarana and Chitta ) retire in sleep. During deep sleep the apparent false knowledge of the external world disappears but not the real nature of the Jivatman. The Jivatman realizes oneness with the Supreme Atman. We then become Sarvam. The answer to the question – who is free from the three states, is the imperishable Atman.

5th Question = to which world is attained by a person who meditates throughout his life, with a single minded devotion, on AUM

Satyakama, son of Sibi raises the 5th question. He asks, as to which world is attained by a person who meditates throughout his life, with a single minded devotion, on AUM (sometimes spelled as OM).

Some explanation on AUM and meditation would be in order at this stage.


This single syllable incantation is regarded is the most powerful and significant of all mantras. It is accepted both as one with Brahman and ass the medium connecting man and the Supreme. The sound of ‘AUM’ is also called the ‘Pranava’, meaning that it is something that pervades life. The very central theme of Mandukya Upanishad is the syllable ‘AUM’, through which the mystery of Brahman is gathered.

Repetition of “Omkara” is done on different occasions. We find this in the repetitions of simple mantras like “Om namo Narayanaya” or “Om Namashivaya”. And Vedic mantras as well as hymns begin with “OM”. During sacrifices and acts of penance we notice that “OM” is repeated.


Sometimes “OM” is uttered and repeated independently – mostly by sanyasins and advanced sadhaks. This is called “Pranavopasana”.


Meditation here refers to a continuous flow of mind towards Atman excluding everything else. The principal disciplines for meditation as laid down in Patanjali Yoga Sutra are Yama and Niyama. They refer to methods of self control at physical and mental levels. Yama includes non-violence, truthfulness. Non- stealing, chastity of body and mind and non-receiving of gifts. Niyama includes outer and inner purity, contentment, austerity, study of scriptures and devotion to God.

Indian thinkers have referred to the Supreme Being in two different ways – Nirguna Brahman and Saguna Brahman. In the Nirguna version the Supreme Being is attribute- less (has no form, smell etc) – He cannot be apprehended by our sense organs. In the Saguna version, the Supreme Being has a form and can be apprehended by our sense organs.

Though AUM is only one syllable which is to be meditated upon by uttering it as one unit, it can be uttered and meditated upon by using the sounds produced in three different parts (matras) viz. A, U, M. While meditating the syllable as a whole leads to the Nirguna Brahman, meditating on its different matras leads one to the Saguna Brahman.

The person who meditates on the first matra “A” (sound produced by pronouncing the first letter) is born again in the mortal world endowed with austerity, chastity and faith. He will enjoy the glory and power of spiritual life.

This is possible because the matra A in AUM constitutes the essence of the hymns of Rig Veda.

One who meditates on the second matra (sound produced by pronouncing letter U) is carried after death by the hymns of Yajur Veda to the world of Moon or mind. After enjoying the pleasures of that world he returns to the mortal world once again.

One who meditates on the Supreme Purusha as constituted by the three syllables becomes united with the Sun. Eventually he is taken to the Brahmaloka by the Sama hymns.

Essentially, the Upanishad indicates, when the letters (A, U, M) are employed separately the Sadhak will be going through the cycle of rebirth. However, when


the three matras are blended together and meditated upon the Sadhak will reap the benefits as described above.

6th Question – Whether there exists a person with sixteen parts ?

Sukesa, son of Bharadwaja, told the Guru that he was once asked by the Prince of Kosala whether he knows of a person with sixteen parts. He could not answer the question. Sukesa wanted to know where such a Purusha lives.

Guru Pippalada answers that the Purusha with sixteen parts exists within our body and is our inner Self. The sixteen parts of the manifestation of the Self are as follows. (1) Prana, the life principle (2) Shraddha (3) Space (4) Air (5) Fire (6) Water (7) Earth (8) The Indriyas – 5 Jnana Indriyas and 5 Karma Indriyas together are considered as one (9) Manas, the mind (10) Food (11) Vigor (12) Tapas, self discipline (13) Vedic Hymns – mantras (14) Karma, Sacrifice (15) Wisdom – meaning spiritual worlds representing different states of consciousness (16) Name or distinct identity.

The world of names and forms are all manifestations of the Purusha. As the flowing rivers, bound for the ocean disappear into it on reaching it, are referred to simply as ocean so too these sixteen parts disappear into the Purusha.

Sage Pippalada concludes his instructions with this. The students worship him as they would their father.

Mundaka Upanishad

Mundaka Upanishad belongs to the Atharva Veda and has 64 verses (mantras) spread over three Chapters (mundakas), each of which having two sections (khandas). It is regarded as a one of the Mukhya Upanishads and volumes of commentaries have been written on it.

Lord Brahma was one of the first Divine beings. He imparted this Brahma Vidya to His eldest son Atharva. Brahma Vidya is the fundamental science because it is the very substance of all knowledge, the different branches of which are all the lower forms of knowledge. Sage Atharva passed on the Vidya to Sage Angi. Angi then transmitted it to Satyavaha, the son of Bharadvaja who, in turn, gave this great science to Sage Angiras. Mundaka refers to a person with a shaven head – a Sanyasin. It is meant for a person who has renounced everything. Absolute knowledge cannot be co-existent with worldly activity. The truth that this Upanishad imparts is to be had through the inspirational initiation direct from a


Guru who is well versed in the Brahma Vidya and who has at the same time had the Brahma Anubhava, is brought out very clearly in this Upanishad. Sage Saunaka approached Angiras with due respect and asked “O Bhagavan, what is that through the knowledge of which everything becomes known?”

Ordinarily, knowledge of one thing does not imply knowledge of another thing. But then Brahma Vidya is not a knowledge which excludes other kind of knowledge. It is the Knowledge of the highest cause, the knowledge of which means the knowledge of all its effects also.

Sage Angiras starts his reply by telling that two kinds of knowledge have to be acquired. These are (a) the lower (Apara Vidya) and (b) the higher (Para Vidya).

The lower kind of knowledge consist of all the four Vedas – Rig, Yajur, Sama and the Atharva, the Vedangas – Siksha, (phonetics), Kalpas (rituals), Vyakarana (grammar), Nirukta (etymology), Chandas (prosody) and Jyotisha (astronomy). The higher kind of knowledge is one through which the imperishable is attained.

The lower kind of knowledge pertains to divinities, their worship and the different methods of attaining excellent regions through the performance of meritorious deeds like prayer, sacrifices etc. However, the imperishable Brahman is reached only through the higher kind of knowledge – Brahma Vidya. The essential difference between the two kinds of knowledge is that :

(a) In the case of lower Vidya it gives rise to performance of actions to gain knowledge of the divinity and then follow it up with efforts to attain that divinity.

(b)In the case of higher Vidya, all action ceases before the attainment of knowledge. Knowledge does not mean knowledge of any particular divinity or the connection between the knower and the known. It is the knowledge of the Knower himself. Brahma Vidya is the technique enabling one to reach Absolute experience. This knowledge is attained through a great effort from the Sadhak in the forms of Viveka, Vichara, Vairagya and Abhyasa. Absolute Spirit is experienced as existent everywhere, without distinctions, by those who have risen to the level of spiritual consciousness. This is the object of higher knowledge or Para Vidya.

If the Absolute Brahman is the sole object of our pursuit, then what about this world that we find ourselves in? Is it worthless? Sage Angiras further explains – as the web comes out of the spider and is withdrawn, the plants grow from the soil and the hair from the body of man, and so does the Universe (consisting both of animate and inanimate beings) spring from the Eternal Brahman. The world is


an emanation from the Brahman. We are living and moving in divinity manifesting as this world.

Sage Angiras proceeds to give an outline of the emanation of the world. Brahman expands by means of austerity, and from It primal matter is produced; from Matter Prana is produced; from that Prana, the mind, truth, the regions and the effects of actions.

In the second Khanda, Angiras deals with the nature of lower Vidya. Limitations and criticisms on Apara Vidya are intended to make one conscious of its imperfect state and then proceed beyond it. The sacrificial rites and rituals prescribed in the Karma Kanda of the Vedas come under Apara Vidya. In order to reap the full benefits of the rites or rituals, they will have to be performed flawlessly and with great care – exactly as per rules prescribed in the scriptures. Failure to do so will result in disastrous consequences. In any case the path of the lower Vidya is one of Samsara and Samsara is of the form of pain – and has to be rejected by intelligent people. The fruits of sacrificial rites, even when best performed, are finite and transient. Steeped in ignorance, rating themselves to be great and learned the deluded ones (the performers of these rites) go through the Samsara endlessly. Rituals of worship and good deeds certainly result in good Karma. However, the Karma has not adequate to get us across the sea of Samsara. Preparing to receive the highest knowledge, the seeker should forsake all forms of desire. Then in order to gain the knowledge of the eternal, the seeker should approach a Guru, who is well versed in scriptures and established in Brahman. The Guru will impart the knowledge of the Brahman by which alone the Imperishable Being is realized.

Continuing the discussions, the Sage Angiras gives an example. From a blazing fire countless sparks of various kind, but of similar form, shoot out. Similarly, from the Imperishable Being, different kinds of beings emerge, and return to it later on. The beings emerging from the Supreme differ from one another in their thinking. But the Absolute Self in all individuals remains unaffected. Life is made possible because of this dependence of individuals on the Supreme Self.

Thus far the Sage has explained the objects and nature of Apara Vidya. They all end up in Samsara. The Upanishad traces all experiences back to the ultimate cause. This ultimate cause, Purusha, forms object of Para Vidya or Brahma Vidya. From this Purusha proceed the vital energy Prana, the mind, the senses, Aakasha, air, fire, water and the all supporting Earth. The universe, including all subjects and all objects, is only a condition supported by the Absolute, on the basis of which appearances are experienced by the cognising individual and without which the universe has no reality. The Upanishad gives a description of


the Universal Self like this – his head is the shining region of the heavens; his eyes are the sun and the moon; his ears are the quarters of space; his speech is the Veda full of knowledge; his vital energy is the universal air; the whole universe is his heart; his feet are the lowest earth.

This is a metaphorical illustration of the all inclusive nature of the Universal Being. The Universe is not His creation but His manifestation- His incarnation. He remains as its inner controller – Antaryamin. From Him proceed the sky, the Sun, Moon, showers of rain, all vegetation on Earth. Earth is the essence of food. Food produces energy and from energy all beings are produced. All Vedas came forth from Him. So too are austerities connected with sacrifices and the sacrifices themselves. From him are born Gods of diverse descent. In Him are found the oceans and the mountains; all rivers flow in Him in their various forms. Plants and the various tastes connected with food—all form the different parts of this Cosmic Body in which resides the Universal Self or the Virat-Purusha. The whole universe is Purusha alone. Actions and penances also are this immortal Supreme Self. The Absolute Self is not really experienced by any individual as it really is. Only its effects are experienced.

If the whole Universe is Purusha alone, it means that differences are unreal. Sage Angiras then urges the disciple that the Supreme Being is the only real goal to be attained in life. He then proceeds to advice on how to attain this goal. OM is the bow. The individual self is compared to an arrow. One should place this arrow sharpened by meditation on the bow. Brahman is the target. Drawing the bow with the mind fixed on Brahman hit the target. Constant meditation on OM allows the individual consciousness to take the form of OM itself which is unlimited in nature. The meditator ultimately becomes the object of meditation.OM being the symbol of Brahman, meditation on OM leads to realization of Brahman. The sage declares that the immortal, non-dual Supreme Self is the bridge to immortality.

Where is his Brahman located? He who is Omniscient and all knowing is established in the ether of the heart. He is seated in the core of every individual. This does not mean that the Atman is situated somewhere in space. It just means that it is felt as existence by the individual through the mind which defines one’s personality. Because it is the mind that reflects the Atman, the presence of Atman is felt only where the mind manifests itself.

When the knots of the heart are broken, all doubts are cleared the evil effects of actions perish and the Supreme Being is beheld. The knots are Avidya, Kama and Karma. Avidya is ignorance. Kama is the medium. Karma is the effect. These three binding factors confine experience to an individual personality.


When ignorance, which is the root cause of all troubles, is destroyed by knowledge phenomenal experience is put to an end.

Summing up the sage tells that on Him neither the sun shines, nor the moon nor the stars; not even the lightning; what to speak of this fire; when He shines everything shines after Him. By His light this whole universe is illuminated.

na tatra sūryo bhāti, na candra-tārakam, nemā vidyuto bhānti, kuto’yam agniḥ,

tam eva bhāntam anubhāti sarvam, tasya bhāsā sarvam,idaṁ vibhāti.

This mantra Mundaka-2 (2:2:10) is recited while performing Harati in our daily pujas.

The immortal Brahman is everywhere- above, below, to the right and the left. The Upanishads conclude that Brahman alone is the Absolute Reality.

The concluding chapter of this Upanishad gives us the right understanding of the Paramatma and the Jivatma- the Supreme Self and the individual self. It illustrates their unity, their distinction and their relationship with each other.

Two birds, united always and known by the same name, closely cling to the same tree. One of them eats the sweet fruit, the other looks on without eating. The two birds are the Jiva and Ishvara, both existing in an individual compared to a tree. The body is compared to a tree because it can be cut down like a tree. The body is the field of action and experience and it is the fruit of actions done already. Due to the limiting factors like Avidya, Kama and Karma the Jiva has to experience the results of its actions. The fruits enjoyed by the Jiva are of the nature of pleasure and pain. However, Ishvara is not limited by such adjuncts and has no actions whatsoever to perform. As such He does not have to experience the results for any actions. In the mantra, the Lord is designated as having a golden hue. This is to signify that His nature of knowledge is eternally inherent in Him – even as the colour of gold is something inherent in it.

When the individual has the vision of the Supreme Being the Jiva becomes free from blemishes, attachments and sorrows and gets united with the Absolute. The Supreme Being is manifested in all beings. Knowing this the wise man does not speak of anything else. The man’s delight then lies in the Self only. Brahma Varishtha is one who has realised Brahman and whose action consists in Self knowledge preceded by renunciation of external consciousness. The Atman is attained through truth, penance, correct knowledge and Brahmacharya (self- control), observed continuously and without break. The Atman is beheld within in


the form of light and purity by the realised souls who are freed from all kinds of sins. The popular meaning of Brahmacharya is continence. However, it really means leading a life befitting the nature of Brahman. It is, in other words, Charya or moving/ acting / conducting oneself in accordance with the law of Brahman- which is the unity of existence. Such control is not merely the abandonment of objects but is the absence of taste for the objects. Bondage is not caused by the existence of objects but by the connection of the mind with those objects.

“satyam eva jayate nānṛtam, satyena panthā vitato devayānaḥ, yenākramanty ṛṣayo hy āpta-kāmā yatra tat satyasya paramaṁ nidhānam.”

Truth alone triumphs, not falsehood. Through truth the divine path is spread out by which the sages, whose desires have been completely fulfilled, reach supreme treasure of Truth. Here the “Truth” being referred to is more than the conventional truth speaking. Truth is a symbol of perfection and a representation of the Divine Being. Adherence to truth, therefore, means embracing the universal nature of the Reality. Through Truth the consciousness blossoms into more expanded experience, but untruth attempts to stifle consciousness altogether. The sages got a vision of this Truth because they were absolutely free from such defects as deceit, delusion, fraud, pride, vanity and falsehood. They found the consummation of their desires and aspirations in this Absolute Truth. They became first desire-less and then sought the Truth. Desire breeds falsehood, and desireless-ness gives rise to Truth.

The Supreme Being is to be realized within the lotus of the heart. It is not grasped by the eye, not even by speech, nor by the other senses. It is not possible to know it through deeds. He, who meditates upon it with absolute purity (Sattva) of mind, as the indivisible Being, beholds it through the serenity attained in knowledge. Lot of groundwork needs to be done before reaching this point. To start with practice of virtues like truth is absolutely necessary, to be followed by the withdrawal of the senses and concentration of mind, leading to Tadatmyata, or absorption in the object of meditation.

Whatever is desired by a liberated sage of purified mind will come true. This is because Sankalpa of the sage (knower of Self) is rooted in Satya or Truth. Therefore let all those who seek their own good revere and worship the sage.

The Absolute Self is not to be obtained through discourses, through intellect, or through much hearing. Whom one wishes to attain, i.e., the Self or the Atman, by him alone is It attained. The Upanishad sets forth certain pre-requisites of


meditation on the Atman. The Sadhak should have intense devotion and the requisite mental strength and moral power without which concentration would be impossible. Attachment to worldly objects should be given up. Works done for the sake of personal gain will not help in the realisation of the Self. Realizing everywhere the all-pervading Brahman, deeply absorbed in contemplation of His being, they enter into him, the Self of all. As rivers flowing into the ocean lose themselves in the ocean, casting off name and form, so the knower, freed from name and form, attains the Divine Purusha who is higher than the high.

This concludes the Mundaka Upanishad. Mandukya Upanishad

The Upanishad has been revealed to a great sage-teacher Manduka. The Upanishad belongs to the Atharva Veda. It contains just twelve verses. Yet it occupies a very important position in Vedantic literature because it underlines the essence of the entire Advaita Vedanta. In fact, one of the Mahavakyas “ayam atma Brahma” is derived from the Mandukya Upanishad. It is said that Mandukya Upanishad alone is adequate for an aspirant to achieve liberation.

The theme of this Upanishad is the exposition of the mystic syllable AUM (or OM). It is aimed at training the mind on meditation.

The Upanishad commences with a solemn declaration: Mantra 1: Pranava or Omkara

Om ityetadaksharam idam sarvam, tasyopavyakhyanam bhutam bhavat bhavishyaditi sarvam omkara eva.

Everything is OM, indeed meaning –all this, whatever is visible, whatever is cognizable, whatever can come within the purview of sense-perception, inference or verbal testimony, whatever can be comprehended is all OM. OM is Pranava. It is the Bija-mantra for all mantras be it Vaidika or Tantrika. . OM is both a Nama and a Rupa, name as well as form. The Absolute Supreme is the Rupa (form) of OM which is the Nama (name). It is not merely a sound, though it is also a sound, and a very important aspect of OM that one has to bear in mind is that OM is not merely a chant or a recitation, a word or a part of human language but it is something more than all this. It is something which exists by its own right. We


do not create OM by a chanting of it, but we only produce a vibration sympathetic with the vibration that is already there by its own right and which is called OM. OM in essence is a cosmic vibration. It is not a chant made by us. It is said that OM is a Universal vibration with which creation commenced.

aum ity etad akṣaram idam sarvam, tasyopavyākhyānam bhūtam bhavad bhaviṣyad iti sarvam auṁkāra eva

yac cānyat trikālātītaṁ tad apy auṁkāra eva.

Names go with the form. And for this reason all names in this world are perishable. When the form goes, so does the name. But Universal form is imperishable. Then the Universal name is also imperishable. Thus OM is Akshram. All that is past, that which is present and that which will be in the future is OM.

Mantra 2. Individual and the Absolute

sarvaṁ hy etad brahma, ayam ātmā brahma so’yam ātmā catuṣ-pāt.

The mantra contains three statements – 1.All this is verily Brahman

2.This Atman is Brahman

3.This Atman has four quarters or padas.

We shall examine these statements.

“Sarvam hyetad brahma:” All this is, verily, Brahman. Thus begins the second Mantra. “All this creation is just the Absolute alone”, is the real meaning of this statement. All that can be regarded as what you call this universe is that Brahman.

“Ayam atma brahma”: The Upanishad goes one step forward. It declares that this Atman, (individual self) is also Brahman. Here you have; as it were, the quintessence of all Upanishadic teaching, the last word of the Vedanta, as you may call it, the culmination of the wisdom of the sages. The Universe which appears proximate to our senses, this Jivatma (Individual Self) of ours which also appears proximate to us and that Brahman which seems to be far away from our reach are all reconciled with the Absolute.


“so’yam ātmā catuṣ-pāt”

This subject, this Atman (Individual Self) is regarded as fourfold (four footed as it were) for the purpose of analysis. The fourfold of the Atman described in the Mandukya Upanishad are the four aspects in the study of the Atman, and not four distinguishable, partitioned quarters of the Atman. We have the physical, the subtle, the causal and spiritual aspects as the four aspects to be studied while analysing the nature of the Atman. These four stages are called Jagrat, Swapna, Sushupti and Turiya – the waking state, the dreaming state, the sleeping state and the transcendent spiritual state. These are the four states of consciousness and the study of consciousness is the same as the study of Absolute Brahman. Study of consciousness is the subject of this Upanishad.

Mantra 3. Waking state

jāgarita sthāno bahiṣ-prajñaḥ saptāṅga ekonaviṁśati-mukhaḥ sthūla-bhug vaiśvānaraḥ prathamaḥ pādah.

The first quarter is Vaisvanara. Its field is the waking state. Its consciousness is outward-turned. It is seven-limbed and nineteen-mouthed. It enjoys gross objects.

We commence the study by taking into account all reality as presented to us. The mind will not accept what it does not see or understand. The Mandukya Upanishad, therefore, takes this aspect into consideration and commences the work of analysis of the self from the foundation of sense-perception and mental cognition based on this perception.

Sense perception comes through shabda, sparsha, roopa, rasa, gandha – sound, touch, shape or forms, taste and smell through his respective sense organs. We do not see Ishvara, Brahman, Omkara, Pranava etc. We hear about all these but cannot see, hear or touch any of them. We cannot accept them unless a satisfactory explanation is given in regard to the visible. This immediacy of consciousness the sensory fact presented to us in our day to day life is called waking life or Jagrat-avastha. All experience we have gained is confined to waking life. To us life means waking life. In the words of Dr. S. Radhakrishnan “The waking state is the normal condition of the natural man, who without reflection accepts the universe as he finds it. The same physical universe bound by uniform laws presents itself to all men”.


Let us now try to understand the way we begin to know the world as it appears to us in the waking life. Its special feature is “Bahihprajnah”. It is conscious of only what is external to us and not what is inside us. Our sense organs can experience the outside world and not what is within us. This is the peculiarity of the waking consciousness. The Upanishad says this consciousness is Seven- limbed and has nineteen mouths. This consciousness is called Vaisvanara.

It may be appropriate to understand the meaning of some of the words we will come across.

Jiva – refers to Individual soul

Visva – Individual soul in waking state.

Virat – Universal or macrocosmic aspect of Ishvara

The sum total of all Visva is Virat. The sum total of all physical bodies is Virat. The totality of gross universe is also Virat

Whatever exists in one’s own body also exists in the Universe. The human body is a miniature Universe.

From the point of view of this Upanishad there is no unbridgeable gulf between Jiva and Ishvara. The seven limbs referred to in this Upanishad is a definition of the Cosmic self described in the Chandogya Upanishad. We just said that in the waking consciousness the Jiva is aware of only external objects. This is true of Ishvara also. Both are Bahihprajna (outwardly conscious) with a subtle difference. We will come to this little later.

For the Paramatma, the seven limbs are –

1.the shining regions of heaven may be regarded as His head.

2.His are eyes are the Sun and the Moon.

3.Air is His breath

4.Fire (Ahavaniya fire, one of the three fires of the Agnihotra sacrifice) His mouth

5.Sky is His body.

6.Water is His urinary organ (kidney or bladder) 7.Earth is His feet.


This is the Universal Atman, Virat, from the point of view of the waking consciousness. This is what Arjuna saw as described in the eleventh chapter in Bhagavad-Gita. Just as we have consciousness animating our physical body, Virat is animating the physical Universe. This Virat is called Antaryamin because He is immanent in all things. For this Virat-Purusha there is no difference between living being and dead matter. He is present in the inanimate as well as in the animate by means of what are called the Gunas of Prakruti – Sattva, Rajas and Tamas – composure, activity and inertia. When He manifests Himself through Tamas alone, we call it inanimate existence.

Such objects as stone, rock, which, from our point of view, do not seem to have any consciousness animating them, and are examples of the Virat-Purusha through Tamoguna Prakruti, a quality of Prakruti in which Rajas and Sattva are hidden; Tamas is predominating over Rajas and Sattva. When Rajas and Sattva slowly reveal themselves more and more in larger quantity and extent, there is animation and life creeps into existence. From the inanimate we come to the animate. The first manifestation of life is through what we call Prana – the vital sustaining power in all living beings. Prana is functioning in the world of plants, vegetables, etc. But plants do not think as animals do. The function of thinking belongs to a higher order of Reality which we call as the animal world, with all its instincts and sensations. We now notice a greater degree of the manifestation of Reality. There is a level of Sattva in the humans, where we have not only functions of breathing and thinking, but also of understanding, logical discrimination etc. This is a level higher than that in the animals. We have to reach a still higher level than ordinary humans to reach the realm of Ananda or Divine light. And Ananda is equivalent to Chit and Sat – Consciousness and Being. At this level Sat, Chit and

Ananda become one. At this level only Shuddha-Sattva prevails – no mixing of Rajas and Tamas. So we see distinctions in the realm of Jivas. The Virat, Vaisvanara, does not have any distinctions. While for humans the awareness is “I am, and you are also there”, for the Virat it is “I am and there is no world outside me”.

According to the Upanishad the description is as if He has seven limbs. At the microcosmic level of Jiva the Upanishad tells us it has nineteen mouths. The function of the mouth is to consume things. In this sense our eyes, nose etc through which we take in vibrations may be regarded as mouths. There are nineteen functional organs of this wakeful consciousness which help us establish contact with the outside world. They are –

a)Five Jnanendriyas (Ears, skin, eyes, tongue and nose).


b)Five Karmendriyas (Mouth, hands, feet, genitals and anus).

c)Five Pranas (Prana, Apana, Vyana, Udana and Samana).

The four-fold Antahkarana chatushtaya (Manas-mind; Buddhi- Intellect, Chitta (subconscious mind or faculty by which things are remembered); Ahamkara (egoism or self arrogating principle).

These are the nineteen mouths of the Jiva referred to in the Upanishad. With the help of these nineteen instruments we absorb the physical world outside us into ourselves. Our physical-consciousness not equipped to absorb anything super- physical. Our counterpart at the cosmic level is Vaisvanara. Virat, under the order of Ishvara, having entered the microcosmic body and having the intellect as his vehicle, reaches the state of Visva. The he goes by several names of – Vijnanattma, Chidabhasa, Visva, Vyavaharika Jiva etc.

Now coming back to Bahihprajna, or outward consciousness, while both the Jiva and Ishvara may be regarded as outwardly conscious, there is a subtle difference. While the consciousness relates itself to other objects and persons, it becomes the individual Jiva. In this process, the Jiva binds itself to the external objects – called Samsara. This leads to a desire and likes and dislikes. In the case of the Virat there is no desire. It only has an awareness of the physical cosmos. There is one other difference is. In the case of the Virat the whole Universe is comprehended in its consciousness. That is not possible for the Jiva.

Mantra 4. Dream State:

svapna-sthāno’ntaḥ-prajñaḥ saptāṅga ekonavimśati-mukhaḥ pravivikta-bhuk taijaso dvītiyaḥ pādah.

The second quarter is Taijasa. Its field is the dream state. Its consciousness is inward-turned. It is seven-limbed and nineteen-mouthed. It enjoys subtle objects.

During dream, the mind creates various kinds of objects out of the impressions produced by experiences of the waking state. The mind reproduces the whole of waking life in dream through the force of Avidya (ignorance), Kama (desire and imagination) and Karma (action). The mind is the perceiver and it is also the perceived in a dream. The desires that are not satisfied during the waking state are gratified in the dream state. Dream is the state during which the Atman is referred to as Taijasa. The Svapna Avastha (dream state) is that state in which the senses are at rest. Here the object of experience is consciousness consisting of vasanas (affinities), the impressions of the past experience. The dream-state experience is called the experience of the subtle. Sutratman or Hiranyagarbha,


under the order of Ishvara having entered the microcosmic body subtle body and having the mind as his vehicle, reaches the Taijasa state. He goes by various names – Taijasa, Pratibhasika and Svapnakalpita.

The dreamer creates a world of his own during state. Mind alone works independently in this state. The senses are withdrawn into the mind. Mind also withdraws itself from the outside world and plays in the dream with vasanas and Samskaras. It enjoys objects made up of fine ideas which are products of desire. The difference between dream state and the waking state is – In the dream state there is the subtle experience by Taijasa in the form of vasanas, whereas experience in the waking state is with the gross. The world of dream being subtle, projected only by the mind, is regarded as Pravivikta, Sukshma, non- physical; – this is so both in the case of Taijasa and Hiranyagarbha. While Hiranyagarbha has Cosmic Knowledge, the Jiva has no such knowledge. Hiranyagarbha is Ishvara’s form, and Taijasa is Jiva’s form. Thus is the twofold mystery which dream bolsters up before us.

In the dream state, the state of consciousness by which subtle objects are perceived is called Antahprajna or inner perception. The Visva, or the Jagaritasthana, is Saptanga and Ekonavimsatimukha; and so is Taijasa, or the Svapnasthana. The seven limbs and nineteen mouths reference is relevant in this state as well.

Mantra 5; Deep sleep state

yatra supto na kaṁ cana kāmaṁ kāmayate

na kaṁ cana svapnam paśyati tat suṣuptam suṣupta-sthāna ekī-bhūtaḥ prajñānā-ghana evānanda-mayo hy ānanda-bhuk ceto-mukhaḥ prājñas tṛtīyaḥ pādah.

The third quarter or condition is Prajna. whose sphere is deep sleep, in whom all experiences have become one, who is essentially a mass of consciousness, who is full of bliss, who enjoys bliss and who leads the way to the knowledge of the two other states. When Jivatma experiences deep sleep, the functions of the nineteen organs come to a stop. The Jiva does not see or hear anything. There is no functioning of the mind. Egoism is also absent. However, the veil of ignorance, avidya, persists.

Under the orders of Ishvara he who is coupled with Avyakta, enters the microcosmic Karana body and reaches the state of Prajna. The other names for Prajna are – Avicchinna, Paramarthika, Sushupti Abhimani. Just like a bird, tired


after roaming, goes back to its nest – so too the Jiva tired, after actions during the waking and dreaming states, enters Ajnana and enjoys the bliss. All the knowledge of the waking and dreaming state enter into a oneness. Visva and Taijasa have entered a condition of oneness. The experiences of the waking and dream state are not annihilated but remain in a seed state. They become a dense mass of consciousness during deep sleep- Prajnanaghana.

In deep sleep the mind is involved into its cause – Avidya. For this reason there is this veil of ignorance between the individual soul and the Brahman. Therefore the Jiva cannot attain the knowledge of Brahman during deep sleep state. The bliss enjoyed is termed Avidya Avrita Sukha – bliss enveloped by ignorance. When you wake up from deep sleep – you enjoyed the sleep but did not know anything. The remembrance when you get up from deep sleep that the Sakshi or the witness of three states exists. That Sakshi is Brahman.

You do experience bliss during deep sleep – but not the highest bliss of Brahman, the Nirvikalpa Samadhi. Only thing achieved is freedom from unhappiness. When you wake up from deep sleep, man is still ignorant and affected by the worldly objects. And that is why you do not attain Brahmajnana. Compare this to the state of a sage coming out of Samadhi. The sage has full knowledge of the self and is not affected by worldly objects. That is the difference between deep sleep and Samadhi.

Mantra 6; Ishvara

eṣa sarveśvaraḥ eṣa sarvajñaḥ, eṣo’ntāryami eṣa yoniḥ sarvasya prabhavāpyayau hi bhūtānām.

The word Sarvesvara means Lord of all meaning the physical and supra-physical Universe. All mental and physical worlds come out of Ishvara and He controls everything. He is omnipotent and as such He is the source and end of all creation.

Prajna is the causal state of the Universe. Macrocosmically, we regard this consciousness as the creator of the whole Universe. Microcosmically also, the same consciousness is the creator of the internal world of the Jiva. The description of Sarvesvara (omnipotent) and Sarvajna (omniscient) cannot be attributed to Jiva – since the Jiva is neither omnipotent nor omniscient. Yet the Upanishad does not make a distinction between the individual and the Cosmic, and harmonizes the relation between Jiva and Ishvara. The causal condition of the Jiva, namely Prajna, is regarded only as a part of the cosmic causal state of


Ishvara. Just as the whole world has come out of Ishvara, so also the waking and dream states have come out of deep sleep.

The Prajna is the knower of all as He is in all beings. He is Antaryamin (i.e.) the inner ruler and governor all beings from within. He has entered into all beings and directs everything from within. He is the source of all. From Him proceeds the entire world. While He is the origin of all, He is also the place of dissolution for all beings.

Ishvara does not exert from outside to create the worlds. He does not want any instruments or materials to work with while creating the worlds. He is Omnipotent. He wills it and everything comes into being. He is both the material and instrumental cause. . He projects this world and in the end withdraws it within Himself.

Mantra-7; The Transcendent Presence

nāntaḥ-prajñam, na bahiṣ prajñam, nobhayataḥ-prajñam na prajnañā-ghanam, na prajñam, nāprajñam;

adṛṣtam, avyavahārayam, agrāhyam, alakṣaṇam, acintyam, avyapadeśyam, ekātma-pratyaya-sāram, prapañcopaśamam, śāntam, śivam, advaitam, caturtham manyante, sa ātmā, sa vijñeyaḥ.

Abstruse theories regarding Brahman cannot easily be grasped by men of ordinary learning. Two techniques have generally been employed to make it easier for them to grasp

1.Explain the unknown by giving examples from day to day life

2. Explain the unexplainable by denying the known entities. It is called “Neti Neti “(not this; not this) technique. In this case, the sage employs the second technique.

We have so far discussed the three states of consciousness – waking state, dream state and the deep sleep state. The seventh mantra in the Mandukya Upanishad adopted the “Neti Neti” technique to explain Turiya, the fourth state of consciousness. Turiya cannot be described in words. It is the transcendental state that has to be realised through meditation. Atman is beyond the reach of senses. It has no qualities, colour, shape or form. You cannot touch it or smell it. For this reason it is indefinable. Yet Atman is the sole essence of the consciousness of the Self. The fourth stage of Turiya is distinct from the waking state, the dreaming state, the intermediate state between waking dreaming


states and the deep sleep state. It is pure consciousness. Turiya is distinct from Ishvara. Turiya or Brahman has no relation with the world. However, Ishvara governs the world. Brahman is free from Maya whereas Ishvara is with Maya. Swami Sivananda explains that strictly speaking “Turiya is not a state. Turiya or Brahman is an embodiment of peace and bliss. It is the substratum for the other three states”. It is absolute existence, knowledge and bliss.

Mantra -8 – Atman as Pranava

so’yam ātmādhyakṣaram auṁkaro’dhimātram pādā mātrā mātrāś ca pādā akāra ukāra makāra iti.

In the previous mantras the Atman has been described from the view point of the four states – waking, dream, deep sleep and Turiya. In this mantra it is being described from the viewpoint of sound AUM. This will help meditation on AUM. Earlier it was said that the Self can be seen in four states or quarters (padas); visva – the waking state, taijasa – the dream state, prajna – the deep sleep state and turiya – pure consciousness. Turiya is the real nature of the Self.

The first three states (padas) of the Self are represented by the three letters (matras )of AUM. Hence this mantra says that the padas and the matras are the same. Turiya is beyond description; so it is amatra- beyond the matras. Some people may question as to why the same idea is being repeated in two different ways. The reason for that is that a few people may find it difficult to absorb the concepts given in the previous mantras. Those people may concentrate on AUM as the symbol of Ultimate Reality.

Mantra-9 – AUM syllable

jāgarita-sthāno vaiśvānaro’kāraḥ prathamā mātrā’pter ādimattvād vā’pnoti ha vai sarvān kāmān ādiś ca bhavati ya evaṁ veda.

The word Om represents the Atman. So the matras of Om represent the different conditions in which the Atman manifests itself. Matra “A” (Akaara) represents the first condition. – Vaisvanara. Just like “A” pervades in all letters of alphabets so also Vaisvanara pervades all things in the Universe. Just as “A” is the first letter in AUM, so also Vaisvanara is the first condition of Atman. The waking state is the first of the three states. He who knows it has all his desires fulfilled.



Now, the Upanishad proceeds further to a comparison of the second syllable of Omkara, namely ‘U’, with the second phase of the manifested Atman, namely, Taijasa. Ukara is the second syllable of Om, which can be compared with the second Pada or foot of the Atman. The Ukara is regarded as Utkarsha or elevated in the sense that it is beyond Akara, and comes after Akara. We can compare, in meditation, Ukara with Taijasa, the dreaming consciousness. Just as “U” is in between waking and sound sleep, Taijasa is also in between Visva and Prajna. He who knows this attains supreme knowledge. He is treated equally by all. Anyone ignorant of Brahman is not born in his family.


The Upanishad, then, proceeds with the comparison between Makara and the deep sleep state of consciousness. Makara is the third Matra of Om, and it is comparable with Prajna, the third state, causal, of the Atman. Visva and Taijasa are, as it were, measured by Prajna in Pralaya (involution) and Utpatti (evolution). Visva and Taijasa sink in Prajna during sleep and emerge out of him afterwards. This is symbolically represented as being measured by Prajna. When the syllable Om is repeated continuously, the letters “A” and “U” appear to merge themselves in “M” and emerge out of it again Prajna is identified with the letter “M”. He who knows this will be able to measure all. He will be able to know the real nature of this world. He will be able to comprehend all within himself.


That which has no parts is called Amatra. Omkara is Amatra. It is the fourth quarter. It is pure Atman. The benefit derived from realising the Atman – is that


svapna-sthānas taijasa ukāro dvitīyā mātrotkarṣāt ubhayatvādvotkarṣati ha vai jñāna-saṁtatiṁ samānaś ca bhavati nāsyābrahma-vit-kule bhavati ya evam veda.

suṣupta-sthānaḥ prājño makāras tṛtīya mātrā miter apīter vā minoti ha vā idaṁ

sarvam apītiś ca bhavati ya evaṁ veda.

amātraś caturtho’vyavahāryaḥ prapañcopaśamaḥ sivo’dvaita evam auṁkāra ātmaiva, saṁviśaty ātmanā’tmānaṁ ya evaṁ veda ya evaṁ veda.

he attains immortality. He is not born again. Visva merges in Taijasa, Taijasa in Prajna and Prajna dissolves itself in Turiya Atman – Brahman.

This concludes the Mandukya Upanishad. Taittiriya Upanishad

This Upanishad is very popular, chiefly, owing to the fact that it is still chanted during Hindu religious ceremonies with proper swarams and intonations in all parts of India. In addition, it speaks of the rules of conduct beginning from student life to the fourth Ashrama – Sanyasa life revealing the depth of significance at each stage. It is divided into three parts according to Sri Shankara. They are:

The special feature of the second chapter, Brahmananda-Valli is that it proclaims that Brahman is Anandamaya or Supreme Bliss. This chapter is the most important among the three inasmuch as it deals directly with Brahmajnanam which is the sole purpose of the Upanishad.

The special feature of the third chapter, Bhrigu-Valli is the mention of the five sheaths, Koshas, of the Atman. The concept is mentioned in other Upanishads like Brihadaranyaka and Chandogya. However, Taittiriya handles it much more explicitly. The Vedantic doctrine of the three bodies (causal, subtle and gross) and the five sheaths or Koshas is directly based upon utterances in this Upanishad. It gives the most beautiful idea of leading the mind from the gross to the subtle and then to the subtler till the subtlest of all, the Atman.







The Guru gives clear instructions to aspirants on character building. He teaches the rules of right conduct / living to prepare them for the attainment of Brahma Jnana. Each Valli (chapter) is divided into Anuvakas or sections. Each Anuvaka contains one or more mantras. This Valli has 12 Anuvakas. It has 29 mantras.

Deals with the bliss of Brahman. The order of creation is described in this Valli.

It has 9 Anuvakas and 9 mantras

This section gives description of the Five Koshas or sheaths.

It has 10 Anuvakas and 14 mantras.



1.Sections 1 and 12 contain peace chants. The utterance of these chants propitiates the Devatas (Gods). The spiritual paths are rendered smooth through their grace. All obstacles will be removed. You will have a good health and a good meditation

2.Section (Anuvaka) -2: Though the meaning of the text of the Upanishad is important, correct pronunciation of the mantras is critical. The power of the mantra lies in the sound and not in the text. Incorrect pronunciations rob the efficacy of the mantra and in the worst case may lead to disastrous consequences. For this reason, in the early days, learning Sanskrit is not merely reading books but chanting it under the guidance of an experienced Guru.

3.Section (Anuvaka) -3:It teaches on how to meditate on the combination of words. The word Samhita refers to conjunction of two word or letters of the Vedic texts. While reciting Vedic chants, the students get deeply involved in reciting and they find it difficult to direct their mind on the meaning of the texts that they are reciting. In order to draw the mind from the sound to the text, the mind is made to meditate over some symbolic significance given to the letters.

4.Section (Anuvaka) -4: It consists of mantras and rituals to be done by those who aspire for Divine knowledge and wealth. It starts with an invocation by the disciple praying for knowledge and worldly possessions. The prayer is addressed to “Pranava” (Om) the sound symbol of the Supreme Brahman. The Anuvaka also contains a prayer by the teacher – “As water flows from high to low, as months join to become a year, let good disciples come to me from everywhere”. All the different mantras and sacred texts are considered as different branches (i.e.) expressions of the Divine Om. Since no great merit can be acquired without self-purification, the utterance of the sacred Pranava is recommended to purify the mind from all sins.

5.Section (Anuvaka) -5:In this section the Upanishad teaches the secret of meditation on Brahman in the shape of Vyahritis. One can obtain Self- realisation by meditating on the Vyahritis. The words “Bhuh”, “Bhuvah”, “Suvah”, “Mahah”, “Janah”, “Tapah” and “Satyam” are called even Vyahritis or “Sapta Vyahritis”. Besides the three Vyahritis “Bhuh”, “Bhuvah”, “Suvah”, there is a fourth Vyahriti names “Mahah”. This was discovered by Mahachamasya. The Vyahriti “Mahah” is Brahman and it pervades all the other Vyahritis. Among the worlds, heaven etc, are only the limbs of Mahah. The Vyahriti Mahah should be meditated upon as Brahman. The four Vyahritis should be meditated upon in four different ways. Therefore, there are in all four times four i.e., sixteen aspects of Vyahritis. This kind of


symbolic meditation of the Pranava (Shabda Brahman) is known as Pratika Upasana.

6.Section (Anuvaka) -6: The details of meditation are given in this 6th Anuvaka – the nature of entity to be meditated, path by which Brahman can be attained, fruits of meditation and the way to meditate are explained.

In the 5th Anuvaka, the object to be meditated upon is a symbol – the Vyahriti. In the 6th Anuvaka the object of meditation is Brahman. Brahman pervades the whole body. It is difficult for beginners to concentrate and meditate on this all-pervading body. So the Rishis have prescribed the cavity of the heart as His seat. . This will make the job of meditating on the Brahman easier for the beginners. Heart is also a vital centre for the human being. Hence it is regarded as the most suitable location for meditation on the Brahman. The heart is like a lotus with its head bent downwards. Here resides the Pursha (Brahman).

The Upanishad then goes on to describe how a Yogi leaves his body at the time of his death. A very important Nadi known as Sushumna Nadi opens out above the heart. The Nadi is the path to reach Indra, the lower Brahman. It is the way for the realisation of Brahman. The Yogi enters the Sushumna Nadi with the help of Udana Vayu and leaves the body opening the skull. He then becomes one with the Hiranyagarbha.

The nature of Atman is always described in our scriptures as of golden effulgence, electric brilliance etc. This is done to import the idea that physical objects are perceived with the help of physical lights. In the same way, all perception becomes possible through the light of the Atman. Besides, it becomes very helpful for Sadhaks to contemplate upon the Atman as a flame of light located in the inner region of the heart. Meditate upon Brahman as possessing the qualities described above. This is the instruction of the spiritual preceptor, Mahachamasya

7.Section (Anuvaka) -7: The main objective of the Upanishad is to teach the highest truth that everything is Brahman. To make it easier, the aspirant is taken step by step towards this truth. In this Anuvaka, meditation is taught through a symbol of Panktas or fivefold sets of objects. These fivefold sets are found both within the body and the outside world. The two should be contemplated as identical with each other. Together they constitute the Universe which is a manifestation of Brahman.


Panktas (Sets of Fives)


Objects that are external and gross.

Loka pankta

(1) Earth, (2) Sky, (3) Heaven, (4) Primary quarter, (5) Intermediate quarters.


Objects that are internal and subtle


(1) Prana (2) Vyana (3) Apana (4) Udana (5) samana.

Senses(1) Eyes, (2) Ears, (3) Mind, (4) Speech, (5) Touch

Devatas(1) Fire, (2) Air, (3) Sun, (4)Moon , (5)Stars

Bhutas(1) Waters, (2) Herbs, (3) Forest trees, (4)Space, (5)Atman

Dhatu(1) Skin, (2) Flesh, (3) Muscle (4) Bone, (5) Marrow

8. Section(Anuvaka)-8:

This teaches meditation for superior students through the symbol AUM. Earlier we have seen meditation on Brahman through Vyahriti utterances. It was followed by meditation on Brahman via Panktas. Now the Upanishad talks about meditation meant for the highest class of aspirants. You should meditate on the syllable AUM as being Brahman. AUM is a mere sound. And as such it is insentient in itself and cannot be conscious of the worship offered. Yet as in the case of worship offered to an idol, the Lord is aware of the action of the worshipper. He will dispense the fruits to the Sadhak.

9. Section(Anuvaka)-9:

In this Anuvaka, the Shruti emphasises that the study of the Vedas must be combined with the practice of prescribed duties in the form Nitya and Naimittika Karmas. A great emphasis is laid upon the study and also on the teaching of Vedas. He must be righteous and truthful. He should control his senses and worship the Lord. He should perform Agnihotra and honour guests. He should perform social duties.


10.Section (Anuvaka) -10: After ensuring that the details regarding right thinking and right actions as per the details given in the previous Anuvaka have been strictly followed, divine visions and intuitive knowledge of the truth which leads to Moksha occur to him. By now the Sadhak is free from desires. The Anuvaka contains a statement by an enlightened sage, Trisanku, describing his spiritual experiences. The Rishi has seen in his divine vision the Mantra which describes his spiritual experiences. The recitation of this Mantra leads to purity and spiritual progress. The aspirant should repeat this mantra with faith and devotion.

11.Section (Anuvaka) -11: In this Anuvaka, the Guru gives the final instructions to the students who have completed their study under the preceptor. The Guru exhorts the disciple: Speak the truth. Do your duty. Never swerve from the study of the Vedas. Do not cut off the thread of the offspring. After completing the studies, the students return home to embrace the householder’s life – which is the proper place for the discharge of worldly duties.

12.Section (Anuvaka) -12: The twelfth section contains a peace chant at the end of Shiksha-Valli


This second chapter, Brahmananda-valli, provides us with the essence of the entire Taittiriya Upanishad.

In the first chapter, Shiksha-valli, the students were initiated into different methods of concentration in the pursuit of Brahma Vidya. In this second chapter, the teacher leads them into the process of Self-Discovery. As the nucleus of such discovery is the individual seeker himself, the different layers surrounding this core in the form of concentric circles are analyzed and laid open with a view to make the seeker aware of his innermost real identity or in other words to make him recognize his own personality.

For the purpose of this scientific analysis, the Upanishad for the first time in the Vedanta literature considers the individual as an entity consisting of five different sheaths of matter, each covering the other with varying degrees of grossness, the outermost being the grossest. This theory in technical language is known as Pancha Kosha or five sheaths. Before we take up the mantras proper a bird’s eye view of the Pancha Kosha analysis is presented below to make the subject easier to follow.

The personality of a complete man comprises of five layers which are referred to in Vedanta as Pancha Kosha. ‘Kosha’ means a covering or sheath. Pancha Kosha means the Five Sheaths. The scabbard of the sword covers the sword. It is of the same shape as the sword. It indicates the presence of the sword, even though it covers the sword from one’s sight. The scabbard is always


different from the sword and does not affect the sword in any way. Similarly the Soul or the Self is covered by the five sheaths. Hence the Self or the Soul is generally referred to as the In-dweller.

The chapter starts with a peace chant. This prayer is for a mutual good feeling between the preceptor and the disciple.

1.Section (Anuvaka) -1: This section starts with the declaration that “the knower of the Brahman attains the Supreme” (brahmavit apnoti param”). In reference to that is the following hymn repeated: Satyam, Jnanam, Anantam Brahma. Brahman is Truth, Knowledge and Infinity. This sentence defines the nature of the Brahman and also exhausts the definition of Brahman. It is to be noted that these adjuncts are defining the Brahman and not qualifying Him. The qualifying adjuncts serve to distinguish the object from all others of the same species. On the other hand, the defining adjuncts aim to distinguish the thing from all else in the whole world.

Also, these three words are not connected with each other but are independent of each other. That is – Satyam is Brahman, Jnanam is Brahman and Anantam is Brahman. Satyam refers to Him as changeless. In contrast changing forms are referred to as Vikara. The word Jnana refers to knowledge or absolute consciousness. By Infinite is meant – where one sees nothing else and knows nothing else.

In reference to the individual being, this Pure consciousness is called “Pratyagatman”, the inner soul. Again in reference to the Universe, it is called Brahman or Paramatman. From the Brahman was born Akasa. Akasa is that thing which has sound as its attribute and affords space for all objects that have a form. From that Akasa comes into being Vayu – the air – with two properties (a) the property of touch which is its own (b) the property of sound belonging to Akasa. From Vayu, the air, is born fire having three attributes comprising of two preceding attributes of sound and touch and the attribute of “colour or form” which is its own. From Fire came water which has four attributes – taste which is its own and the three preceding attributes of sound, touch and form. From water came Earth with five attributes – smell which is its own together with four preceding ones of taste, sound, touch and form.


Bhuta- Guna Matrix is given below:

















Herbs, pl Prthvi Sound

ants and vegetables came from Touch Form Taste Smell

Earth; food from the her

It is true that all creatures without exception are modifications of Food. And all of them are descended from Brahman. Yet, human beings among them are an exception from other creatures. Why? (1) Human being alone are qualified and entitled to perform Karma and acquire knowledge (2) He alone is competent to follow scriptural teachings. (3) He alone seeks God (4) He is endowed with intelligence, reason, judgement and discrimination (5) He thinks, reasons, reflects and meditates. (6) He knows what is good and what is evil; what is right and what is wrong (7) Man alone wishes to attain the innermost Brahman by knowledge (8) By meditating upon Koshas one after another, he realises their true nature. (9) The Shruti tries to lead the aspirant from the grossest aspect (the body) to subtler and subtler aspects until he can grasp the subtlest – the innermost Atman.

For the purpose of analysis the Shruti considers the individual as an entity consisting of five different sheaths, each covering the other with varying degree of grossness, the outermost being the grossest. Technically, these are referred to as Pancha Koshas.

2. Section (Anuvaka) -2: All creatures born on Earth are products of food. After they are born they live and grow by food. At the end they are dissolved or absorbed in food. This is the cycle. For this reason food is called “Jyeshtam”- the first cause of all living beings. Food is also referred to as “sarva aushadham” – a cure for everything. If a person worships on all food as Atman he will obtain all food. The exposition of the first of the “Koshas”, the Annamaya Kosha is completed. The Shruti proceeds to show that the individual soul is identical with Brahman who is within and beyond the five sheaths starting from Annamaya Kosha (food-sheath) down to Anandamaya Kosha (bliss-sheath). These sheaths are different layers of our personality.


When we are at the gross level we are happy with material things; when we are at the mental level we become thoughtful and imaginative; when we are at the intellectual level we enjoy intellectual pursuits. For all these we need some external support. But when we are at the level of bliss, there is nothing but bliss. Nothing supports that bliss. We are completely absorbed within ourselves. We are not aware that we have a body or mind or intellect. The Annamaya Kosha is also referred to as Sthula Shareera. The body is called Annarasa, the essence of food, because it is the personification of what we eat and which gets transformed into muscles, bones etc.

Within the Sthula Shareera, gross body, is the Sookshma Shareera, the subtle body. It consists of several layers. After discussing about Annamaya Kosha, the Shruti proceeds to explain the nature of Prana and the Pranamaya Kosha. Just as in the previous case, Pranamaya Kosha is also falsely identified with the Atman. The Pranamaya Kosha is more subtle than the Annamaya. The vital forces of the Pranamaya Kosha perform the different functions of the body – digestion, circulation of blood, excretion etc. The whole physical body is pervaded by the Pranamaya Kosha. Discussions about Koshas appear elsewhere in this book.

3. Section (Anuvaka) -3: Whether they are human beings or animals, the organs follow Prana, the vital breath, which enables the organs to perform their respective functions. Inside the Pranamaya Kosha there is Manomaya Kosha. Manomaya Kosha is made up of Vrittis or Sankalpas (thoughts). It is subtler than the Pranamaya Kosha. It controls the Pranamaya Kosha.

4. Section (Anuvaka) -4: Inside the Manomaya Kosha there is Vijnanamaya Kosha. Vijnanamaya is the determinative knowledge. The determinative knowledge is an attribute of the intellect. It is the determinative faculty which guides the mind and enables it to come to the right conclusion. When the mind is in doubt, Vijnanamaya comes to the aid and helps in determining on what should be done. While Manomaya is composed of Vrittis, or states of mind, Vijnanamaya is the owner of the states of mind. It is an agent of all thoughts.


5.Section (Anuvaka) -5: Inside the Vijnanamaya Kosha there is Anandamaya Kosha.. This Kosha is made up of latent impressions of love and other forms of happiness. The Anandamaya is the seed body or causal body (Karana Shareera) This body functions during deep sleep. It is the Anandamaya self who feels “I am happy”, “I am the doer”. When the mind is purified by austerity, knowledge, pious and devotion it becomes free from “Tamas”.. The joy manifests itself in a higher and higher degree in the mind and is rendered purified and clear.

A description of the five sheaths has been given in order to make us realise that the Supreme Brahman is beyond the Five sheaths. He lies within the five sheaths and is also the Self of them all.

Manas (mind) and intellect (Buddhi) are products of Jnana Shakti. There is



Illusory power made up of 3 Gunas

Sattva Guna


Rajas Guna


Manomaya Kosha

Pranamaya Kosha

(Power of action)

Iccha Shakti also in the mind. A desire arises in the mind due to Ichha Shakti. Through Jnana Shakti man gets the knowledge on how to possess the desired object. Through Kriya Shakti man exerts and possesses the object. The Annamaya Kosha constitutes the gross physical body (Sthula Shareera). It operates during the waking state. The Pranamaya, Manomaya and the Vijnanamaya constitute the subtle or astral body. This operates during the dreaming state. Anandamaya Kosha constitutes the causal body (Karana Shareera). It operates during the state of deep sleep. During deep sleep the

Tamas Guna


Annamaya Kosha


Vijnanamayamaya Kosha

Anandamaya Kosha


thin veil of Anandamaya Kosha separates the individual soul from the Supreme soul, Brahman.

6. Section (Anuvaka) -6: After discussing the sheaths surrounding the indweller, the Upanishad now takes up a dialog about the indweller Himself. The section starts with handling the doubt regarding the existence or non- existence of Brahman. The Upanishad goes in great detail regarding the origin of creation. If somebody has no faith in the existence of Brahman then he leads a sensuous life. He is vicious. He has no right conduct. This world is everything for him. He identifies himself with the physical body and other Koshas thus mistaking them for real Self. He gets caught in the abyss of ignorance. He goes through the endless cycle of Samsara (births and deaths). The doubt regarding the existence of Brahman arises, primarily, due to the reason that Brahman is beyond the sensuous experience. So the argument goes that what is not seen does not exist. This argument is un-tenable – because the Shruti declares that Akasa and everything else in the creation have been born out of Brahman. It is common experience in the world that a thing exists if something else is born from it. If the objects in this world are products of nothing, then they could not be perceived by the senses. But we are able to perceive all the objects of creation. It stands to reason to say that Brahman exists.

The Upanishad says that before creation, Brahman brooded over the matter and made Tapas. He thought about the arrangement of the world to be created. He created this universe with space, time, names and forms, wherein all beings enjoy according to the nature of their Karmas. He then entered the names and forms and became many as the seer, hearer and thinker. The Shruti denotes the Brahman as not only the efficient cause of creation but also the material cause for it. This combination of two different kinds of causes in one Being is poetically described that having created the Universe, He entered into it. The Shruti also reveals in a wonderful way the truth about Reality. The crucial test of the Real is our abiding consciousness of it – that which appears as existent in our consciousness for all time and is not negated by any another experience is Real. The Universe appears so real to us. If that be so, then how much more real must the cause from whom it has derived its Reality.

7. Section (Anuvaka) -7: – After the dissolution (Pralaya), everything was in an undifferentiated and un-manifested state of existence. Brahman transmuted Himself into visible or manifested Universe by His own inherent power without any extraneous assistance. Brahman is both the material and efficient cause of the universe. For this reason Brahman is called “Sukrita”- meaning self made. This Brahman is bliss itself. All sensual pleasures are only reflections of that supreme bliss of Brahman. In addition, all physical actions in this world are made possible only because of Brahman. Therefore,


the seeker must believe that the Lord does exist and provide joy for everyone. The Shruti goes on to give a number of reasons for us to believe in the existence of Brahman.

8. Section (Anuvaka) -8: Vayu (wind), Agni (fire), Indra (Lord of the Devas) are Yama (Lord of death) are all lords by themselves. They preside over different functions of the Universe. They regularly perform their functions according to certain laws. The regular discharge of their functions is possible only if there is a controller. Therefore, Brahman, their cause and controller exists. Their existence is entirely dependent on Him. They discharge their duties, as if they are afraid of Him.

The Devas are thirty three in number. They are the receivers of oblations offered while performing the sacrificial rites. They are: – (a) Vasus -8; (b) Rudras-11 (c) Adityas -12 (d) Indra (e) Prajapati. The Shruti tells that – the Being who is the Innermost Self, Atman, of the man is the same as the One who gives energy and light to the Sun. He is also the same as the One in all the Devas. Becoming one with Brahman is the goal of life. Knowledge is the means for attaining this end. Moksha is eternal and it cannot be obtained by rituals.

9. Section (Anuvaka) -9 – This verse gives a summary of the whole teaching contained in Brahmananda valli. Brahman is beyond the scope of speech and thought. The speech has the power of describing only those objects of this world that are conditioned by name and form.

Similarly, the mind has the power of knowing only those objects which have a name and form. But Brahman has no name or form. As such He is indescribable and incomprehensible. He who knows the invisible, unqualified, un-nameable Brahman, which is sinless, which is free from desires, which is free from the relation of enjoyer and enjoyment , which is eternal is not afraid of anything. The cause of fear, created by ignorance, has disappeared.

The knower of Brahman is not affected by such thoughts as – “why have I not done what is good”, “why have I done evil actions?. This is because he understands that good and bad are but different manifestations of the same Atman. Dharma and Adharma are different aspects of the same Brahman.

This ends Brahmananda Valli.



Bhrigu Valli of the Taittiriya Upanishad explains the knowledge of Brahman through a dialogue between a teacher and a student.

1. Section (Anuvaka) -1 – Bhrigu approaches his father and teacher Varuna to seek knowledge of Brahman. Varuna tells his son that Eye, ear, mind and speech help perception. These are the gates to the perception of Brahman. They are the gates to the magnificent city of Brahman (Brahmapuri). You have to enter into the city of Brahman through these gates. Varuna then proceeds to give a description of Brahman. “Brahman is that from whom all living beings are born; by Him when born they live; at the time of dissolution (Maha pralaya) they enter into Him”. The teaching given by Varuna to his son is incomplete. Of all aids to the attainment of Brahman, penance is a pre- eminent aid. So Sage Bhrigu performed penance. The Smriti says “one- pointedness of mind and the sense organs is indeed the highest penance”.

2. Section (Anuvaka) -2 – Bhrigu came to know that food is Brahman, because all the creatures are from food, they live by food and while departing they enter food. Food is the material cause of the Food-sheath – Annamaya Kosha ( i.e) physical body. So Bhrigu concluded that food is Brahman because it has distinctive marks of Brahman. He was not happy with this result of his investigation. He approached his father for further enlightenment. Once again his father recommends Penance as the means to realise Brahman.

3. Section (Anuvaka) -3 – Bhrigu reflected over the matter for a second time and did penance. He came to the conclusion that Prana or life is Brahman. Life is the cause of birth of physical body. It is also the cause for its sustenance. When Prana departs from the body, death takes place. Prana only energises the body. It is only through Prana that the mind and senses function. As Prana is the efficient cause of birth, sustenance and death of body – surely life must be Brahman. Yet, Bhrigu was unhappy with this conclusion. The reasons are (a) Prana is non-intelligent (Jada). (b) It has a beginning and an end. It cannot be Brahman. He returned to his father.

4. Section (Anuvaka) -4 – His father once again advised Bhrigu to do penance. And Bhrigu did. He thought that mind is more subtle than the physical body and Prana. It is intelligent also. Thought only leads to action and sustains life. Through thought only man reincarnates and takes bodies. The entrance of Prana into the womb is dependent on mind only (by an act of mind only man comes into this body (Prasna Upanishad). Death takes place when the man gives up by thought all attachment to the body. So mind is the cause for the birth, sustenance and death. Therefore Mind must be Brahman. Yet, Bhrigu was not satisfied. Mind has a beginning and an end. It has no self-


luminosity. So how can it be Brahman? Once again Bhrigu returned to his father for further enlightenment.

5. Section (Anuvaka) -5 – Bhrigu reflected over the matter for the fourth time. Vijnana or Knowledge is subtler than the mind. Knowledge accomplishes sacrifice. It is the cause for the birth of the body through its acts. It controls and directs the mind, the senses and the body and propels them into action. It also acts as cause for the sustenance of the body. It causes dissolution by engaging in battle and brings about death. Knowledge takes the subtle body after death to other regions and brings it back again to this earth. Knowledge appears to answer the requirements of Brahman and hence it must be Brahman. Once again Bhrigu was uneasy with the conclusion. Knowledge is the agent of all actions of the Jiva and also the enjoyer of the fruits of actions. It is associated with pain. It is not pure. It is not free from the conditions of life – sorrows, miseries, troubles etc. Akasa and other elements cannot be produced by knowledge. Therefore knowledge cannot be Brahman. Bhrigu returned to his father. He was asked to do more penance

6. Section (Anuvaka) -6 – This time Bhrigu understood that Bliss is Brahman. From Bliss all beings are born. They live by Bliss. While departing they enter Bliss. This is the knowledge learnt by Bhrigu. His father, Varuna, slowly led him to these conclusions.

7-10 Sections (Anuvaka) -7 to 10 – These later sections of this chapter include contemplation of Brahman through the symbol of food. Food is glorified as food is the basis for any living being. The Shruti says – do not speak ill of food. Do not abandon food. Accumulate plenty of food for the distribution to travellers. Do not turn away anybody who seeks shelter. Brahman should be meditated upon as being satisfaction in rain ; as power in the lightning; as fame in the cattle; all things that exist in Akasa should be contemplated as Brahman.

Aitareya Upanishad

The Aitareya Upanishad forms part of the Aitareya Aranyaka of the Rig Veda. It is divided into six sections or Khandas (when peace chant is counted as a Khanda). With such counting, the Upanishad came to be referred to as “Atmashatka”. This refers to six sectioned dissertation on the Atman. The Upanishad derived its name from its author “Mahidas Aitareya”. In a symbolic language, the Upanishad”, describes the creation of the Universe. In essence the Upanishad says –

Atman is the only Reality

Treats evolution through hunger and thirst, of food, of the entrance of

the Self into the body

It deals with the conception and the three births of man


One is released from the cycle of birth and death through knowledge of Brahman

Atman and not Prana is the only cause of everything Whole Universe is a manifestation of Brahman Individual soul is identical to the Supreme soul

The Shruti indicates that it is very difficult to practice Brahma Vidya without absolute renunciation. Sri Adi Shankara agrees that sanyasa is necessary for attaining self-realisation.

Part -1; Chapter-1

The first section describes creation. It uses the word “Brahman” for Universal consciousness and “Atman” for individual consciousness.

In the beginning, before creation started, there was nothing save Atman. The Universe was one with the Atman – it was in an un-manifested or “Avyakta” state It had no manifested difference of name and form. Then, Atman ,omniscient by nature, thought I shall create. The purpose of creation is for the enjoyment of the results of Karma by living beings. At this stage, it may be appropriate to explain some of the terms that we normally come across.

Take the example of a craftsman, potter, making pots. To do his job, the potter requires three things.

1.Raw material clay is needed by the potter. This is called the material cause.

2. Instrument needed to shape the raw material – potter’s wheel. This called instrumental cause.

3.Intelligence needed to make the pot. Here it is the potter. He is referred to as the efficient cause.

There is nothing outside of Brahman. He is everything. As such He has no material to build the worlds. He is omniscient and omnipotent. He becomes both the material and efficient cause in building the Universe. The mighty juggler creates Himself as other than Himself in the form of Universe. As such, creation is interpreted as a developmental course rather than bringing into being something not hitherto existent. In other words, there is no such thing as creation. It is only a projection of what lies in a potential state (Avyakta, as stated early). At the end of the previous cycle (at the point of dissolution) the totality of beings at that time remains in the form of vasanas. At the start of the new cycle, these vasanas are projected by the Supreme Being according to the quality of their actions (karma). The point to be noted is that although “creation” is the will of Brahman, the end result is not based on His whims and fancies but by the nature of the past actions of the created



He created the five rudimentary elements (Pancha Mahabhutas). He then created four fields for the functioning of this Universe. These are identified in the Upanishad.

1.Ambaha – it is the world that contains water that supports life. It is above the heavens

2.Marichyaha – the sky or the inter-space below known as Marichyaha. And it permeates various regions – because the Sun’s rays pervade it.

3.Maram – This is the Earth. It is called Maram because all creatures die here.

4.Apah – The world of waters.

He thus created the four worlds wherein all living beings could enjoy the fruits of their Karma. Having done that, He wanted to create rulers for the protection of the worlds. Thus thinking, He lifted up “Purusha” from the waters and gave him a shape by joining appropriate limbs. He wanted to give this lump the shape of a man.

A hole in the shape of a mouth manifested itself from that mass. From the mouth came out the organ of speech and from speech the fire – the controlling deity of the organ.

Then the nostril separated out. From the nostrils, the organ of breath; from breath, air-the controlling deity of the organ.

Then the eyes were separated out; from the eyes, the organ of sight; from sight, the sun- the controlling deity of the organ.

Then the ears were separated out; from the ears, the organ of hearing; from hearing, the quarters of space – the controlling deity of the organ.

Then the skin was separated out; from the skin, hairs, the organ of touch; from the hairs, plants and trees, air – the controlling deity of the organs.

Then the heart was separated out; from the heart, the organ of the mind; from the mind, the Moon – the controlling deity of the organ.

Then the navel was separated out; from the navel, the organ of the Apana; from the Apana, Death, Varuna – the controlling deity of the organ.

Then the virile member was separated out; from the virile member, semen, the organ of generation; from the semen, the waters- the controlling deity of the organ.

Part-1; Chapter -2


When this part of creation was over, all the divinities, Agni and the rest, so created fell into the great ocean of Samsara, filled with waters of miseries resulting from ignorance, desire and Karma. The world (Samsara) is always compared to an ocean owing to the difficulties in crossing it. Then the Supreme Atman subjected them to hunger and thirst. The divinities said to their creator: “Give us an abode residing in which we may be able to enjoy our food”. The Supreme Being brought a cow and then a horse and the deities were not happy. Finally, the Supreme Being brought a human being. The deities were happy and entered the human being through his various organs.

Fire becoming speech entered the mouth. Air becoming Prana (smell) entered the nostrils. Sun becoming sight entered the eyes. The deities of quarters becoming sound entered the ears. Herbs and trees becoming hair entered the skin. Moon becoming the mind entered the heart. Death becoming Apana entered the navel. Water becoming semen entered the regenerative organ. Hunger and thirst also sought an abode. They were made co-sharers with other deities.

Man is the best of God’s creation. Man is endowed with higher intelligence, discrimination and reasoning. Animals do not have these attributes. The human body alone is referred to as “Karmayatana”. Karmas can be done by this body alone. All other bodies are “Bhogyayatana” – bodies intended for sensual enjoyments alone.

Part-1; Chapter -3

Having created the worlds and the protectors, the Lord turned His attention to creating food for all of them. He brooded over the water, already created, and out of it was created the food. The water referred to here stands for the five elements. Different senses urged by hunger and thirst run after the food to catch it. In the end it was caught by the out-breath called Apana through the cavity of mouth. Apana is one of the five forms of life-breaths. It regulates the digestive system.

After finishing His tasks thus far, the Lord thought “How can all these live without me? Who am I? What is my nature? Whose ruler am I? If I do not enter the human body and be witness of the bodily and mental activities- then no one will know or care to know of My existence or My nature. He entered through a door or cleft called “Vidriti”. Ishvara enters the body as Jivatman and has three abodes corresponding to the three states – waking, dreaming and deep sleep. The Supreme Self dwells in each of these. The right eye is His dwelling place while we are awake; the mind is His dwelling place while we dream; the lotus of the heart is His dwelling place in the deep sleep state. Having born in the form as Jiva He realised the unison of elements with Him.


Therefore the Supreme Lord is called as “Idandra” or directly as “Indra”. In this mantra anything other than the Atman is denied.

Part-2; Chapter-1

Creation continues through procreation. In this section the creation of the human body is described. It is described as three births of the Jiva. The person is a germ in the semen which is the vigour drawn from all the limbs of the father. Thus the first conception of Jiva is in man, in the body of the father. He then deposits the semen in the womb of the mother. This is the first birth of the Jiva or man travelling in Samsara. The seed becomes one and inseparable with the woman and does not cause any suffering to her. She carefully nourishes the embryo while taking care that she is properly nourished. She then nourishes the child after its birth. This is the second birth of the Jiva.

The father nourishes the child just before and after the birth by performing such natal ceremonies as Jata Karma etc. In fact, the father is nourishing his own self, since the father is born in the shape of the son. The religious Samskaras which are performed during pregnancy and after child birth enables them to tread the path of righteousness. Having discharged his duties the father gets old and departs from this world. After departing he is born again. This is his third birth.

Thus procreation is done for the continuation of the world, but not for obtaining emancipation. Man is caught in the wheel of births and deaths. On account of ignorance he is hurled in the ocean of Samsara. At some stage he realises, through strenuous struggle, the Atman as described in the Shrutis and attains emancipation like Rishi Vamadeva. The Rishi attained self realisation while he was in the womb of his mother. He came to know of the births of all gods like Agni, Vak etc. This was due to his meditation in his previous births.

Part-3; Chapter-1

Seekers of Brahman long to get rid of their Jivabhavatva – which is impermanent and is subject to the cycle of birth and death. They long to obtain universal selfhood “Sarvatmabhava” with the help of Brahma Vidya.(science of self). They began to enquire: “Who is this Brahman?”. How shall we worship Him like Sage Vamadeva did and obtained immortality?

Here we have two Brahmans – (1) The individual soul (2) Universal soul. They are both the Atman of this body. But only one of them must be the Atman fit to be worshipped or meditated upon. Then who is He that is to be meditated upon. Then a thought regarding the differentiation between the two arose. Out of these two one of them serves as an instrument of cognition. With the help


of various senses it makes us perceive everything. This is not the real object for meditation. On the other hand, the Atman who stands behind all senses and the mind must be meditated upon. What is meant by this? The basic question is – who is it that cognises? The answer is: By that which having become sight sees form; by that which having become hearing, hears sound; by that which having become sense of sound smells odours; by which having become organ of speech utters speech consisting of names such as cow, horse etc. having become sense of taste knows what is sweet and what is not.

It is consciousness, mastery, knowledge of arts comprehension, retentive power of mind, perception, fortitude, reflection, independent power of thinking, distress of mind caused by diseases etc, memory, volition, application, any pursuit for maintenance of life, desire – all these are indeed the names of Consciousness (Prajnanam). “What is called Prana is indeed Prajna and what is called Prajna is indeed Prana”: Brahman is distinct from the senses, sense- perceptions, mind and the various Vrittis of the mind. It is the unchanging, self luminous, self-existence, constant witness of all mental modifications.

He is Brahman. He Is Indra. He is Prajapati. He is all these Gods. He is the five great elements. He is all that is born – egg born (oviparous; like birds), womb born (viviparous; like men), sweat born (like lice), sprout born, horses cows, elephants, men; whatever ever else that breaths, moves or flies and those which are immovable – all these are guided by wisdom and are supported by wisdom. In fact, the Universe has Wisdom for its guide. Wisdom is the basis or stay of all. Truly, Wisdom (Prajnanam) is Brahman.

Atman who is of the nature of consciousness is the lower Brahman (Apara Brahman) and is referred to as Hiranyagarbha. He is the cosmic Prana and is the life principle (Kriya Shakti) dwelling in all living bodies. He is described as Prana or Prajnanatma. He is all these Gods- Prajapati, the first born, who has a body and form from whom all protectors of the world are born. From Hiranyagarbha down to the smallest living creature, Brahman receives different names and forms under conditions of different bodies. When one attains knowledge of Brahman the appearances and plurality vanish.

This ends the Aitareya Upanishad.

Chandogya Upanishad

Chandogya Upanishad is one of the primary Upanishads. Together with the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad it ranks among the oldest Upanishads. While Brihadaranyaka Upanishad is the largest among the Upanishads, Chandogya is the second largest. It is associated with the Kauthuma Shakha of the Sama Veda. It is part of the Chandogya Brahmana, which has ten chapters. The first


two chapters of this Brahmana deal with sacrifices and other forms of worship. The rest of the eight constitute the Chandogya Upanishad.

The name of this Upanishad is derived from the word Chanda which refers to a poetic meter in which it is written. This long Upanishad is interspersed with many stories to illustrate its teachings. Just as the Mandukya Upanishad focused on the meaning of Om, so also this Upanishad begins with an instruction that one should meditate on OM, as a loud chant, the Udgitha. “The essence of all beings is the earth”, it continues, “the essence of the earth is water, the essence of water is plants, the essence of plants is a person, the essence of a person is speech, the essence of speech is the hymn of the Rig Veda, the essence of the hymn is the chant, and the essence of the chant is the Udgitha which is Om. Speech and breath are held together by Om.

The importance of Chandogya Upanishad is due to the fact that it directly deals with the true nature of Brahman, the Supreme Self and its identity with the Individual Self. It is an ancient and authentic source on the fundamentals of Vedantic philosophy. Sri Veda Vyasa and Sri Shankaracharya make maximum references to Chandogya Upanishad in their works. Of the 28 Vidyas we come across in Upanishads, 17 are contained in Chandogya Upanishad. It gives an idea of the broad spectrum of its coverage.

The diagram that follows clarifies the structure of the Upanishad.

Though the Upanishad mainly deals with of Non-duality, yet in it are described forms of Upasana (meditation and worship) as the means for attaining good results – results almost as good as Liberation. These forms of Upasana purify the inner sense organs and thereby become illuminative of the true nature of Reality. It becomes clear that for the realization of Brahman, the Savikalpaka form of meditation will be useful. For this reason the Upanishad sets forth right at the start detailing various forms of Upasana of Brahman. .In the first chapter of Chandogya, Upasanas which form part of Sama Veda are detailed. In the second, the ritual of Sama is detailed. In the third, the Upasana of Surya known as Madhu Vidya, Gayatri Upasana and Shandilya Vidya are all given. In the fourth, Samvarga Vidya and the sixteen-phased Brahma Vidya are taught. In the fifth three more Vidyas – Prana, Panchagni and Vaiswanara are elaborated.

A brief summary what is contained in the Upanishad is being covered here.


Chandogya Brahmana

Chapters 1 &2 are Brahmanas

Chapter-1: Chandogya Upanishad has 13 Khandas (sub chapters)

Chapter-5: Chandogya Upanishad 24 Khandas (sub chapters)

Chapter-2: Chandogya Upanishad has 24 Khandas (sub chapters)

Chapter-6: Chandogya Upanishad 16 Khandas (sub chapters)

Chapter-3: Chandogya Upanishad has 19 Khandas (sub chapters)

Chapter-7: Chandogya Upanishad 26 Khandas (sub chapters)

Chapter-4: Chandogya Upanishad 17 Khandas (sub chapters)

Chapter-8: Chandogya Upanishad 16 Khandas (sub chapters)



AUM Meditation

The first chapter – beginning with the words ”One should meditate upon the syllable “OM”, the Udgitha, has been devoted to the treatment of the manner of meditation of the constituent factors of the “ Sama” – which leads to various results. Towards the end, the Upasana of Stobha syllables has been described.

The first chapter of Chandogya Upanishad contains thirteen khandas. In these thirteen khandas, the Upanishad depicts the importance and greatness of the syllable “AUM”

The first Khanda deals with the Upasana of Udgitha – the syllable AUM. The Upanishad tells that syllable AUM should be meditated upon. What is the reason? “ The essence of all beings is the Earth; the essence of earth is water; the essence of water is plants; the essence of plants is a person; the essence of a person is speech; the essence of speech is Rig Veda; the essence of Rig Veda is Sama Veda; the essence of Sama Veda is Udgitha – which is AUM”.

The 2nd Khanda ordains that Udgitha should be meditated as Prana. It further goes on to tell a story to explain the holiness of Prana and how it remains untouched by evil while all other senses get tainted by evil. In the 3rd Khanda it is stated that Udgitha should be meditated upon as Sun and Vyana. The 4th Khanda reveals about meditation on AUM. It tells the story about how the Devas meditated upon Svara (AUM) and became immortal. The 5th Khanda tells that one who meditates on the Sun and its rays and its rays as separate from each other or Prana and its functions as separate (such as speech) from each other would beget many children. In the sixth Khanda one more Upasana on Udgitha for obtaining all-round health is indicated. In the 7th Khanda we are told that AUM should be meditated as Purusha. Here the equality of AUM, Purusha (present in the right eye) and the Sun is indicated. The 8th khanda narrates the story of Pravahana. Here, three wise men – Silaka son of Salavat, Chaikitayana of the line of Dalbhya and Pravahana the son of Jivala, all versed in the Udgitha, discuss about Udgitha. The syllable AUM is generally used to indicate assent. When a person assents to something, he would say OM (meaning yes). Now assenting to something or giving permission to something is gratification. Thus a person meditating on AUM, indeed, becomes a gratifier. The 9th khanda is a continuation of the 8th with the wise men continuing their discussion on Udgitha.


The 10th khanda offers a clarification on the merits derived when one performs the sacrifice knowing the meaning of the syllable AUM. When a person performs the sacrifice with full faith, knowing the true meaning of Udgitha he is rewarded with far greater benefits than one who goes about the routine not knowing the meaning and the significance. In the 10th chapter we find the story of Ushasti, son of Chakrayana, reduced to a stage of abject poverty. He was forced to beg food from a keeper of elephants. The keeper offers him beans from out of a bowl he was eating. However, Ushasti refuses to drink water offered by the elephant keeper. The significance is explained as follows. No demerit falls on a learned man, when, under trying conditions, he is forced commit a mean act e.g. eat unclean food. However, the action will be judged faulty if it was performed while other alternatives (that are not mean) are available to save his life. In khanda -11, the story of Ushasti continues and it is brought out that one ought to meditate upon the deities of Prastava, Udgitha and Pratihara (parts of Sama sung by the priests in the Vedic rituals) in the shape of Breath, Sun and Food respectively. In khanda 12, Sun is meditated upon as the “Lord of Food”. khanda -13 describes the result of meditating upon the letters of Stobha (which forms part of Sama)


Meditation on Sama

Chapter-1 deals with meditation on parts of Sama. In chapter-2, the Shruti discusses meditations on the full body of Sama (that is, Sama with all its parts). This chapter has 24 khandas. The full body consists of five parts. For this reason it is referred to as Pancha Vidha Sama. One needs to meditate on the fivefold Saman as the five worlds. The five parts are –Earth is the syllable Him, Fire is Prastava; Sky is Udgitha, the Sun is Pratihara, Heaven is Nidhana,-This is with reference to ascending regions. The meditation of whole Sama is good. The excellence which did not belong to that covered in chapter-1 is covered by this meditation of the whole Sama.

From the 2nd to 7th khanda, the Upanishad instructs that the Five-fold Sama be meditated upon with different references such as – Regions, Rain, water, seasons, animals and finally as sense organs.

The 8th khanda now talks about the Seven-fold organs of Sama. Two more organs, in addition to the existing five, are brought into light, namely – Adi and Upadrava. The fruit of Upasana of the Seven fold Sama for the worshipper is that he will never face scarcity of food. The 9th khanda talks about fruits of meditation of the Seven fold Sama viewing it in the movement of Sun in the sky.. The worshipper attains the form of the Sun. In the 10th khanda, we read about Upasana of syllables of Seven-fold Sama (Sapta Vidha Sama Namakshara (Upasana).


Chapters 11 to 21 describe how some Sama mantras are to be viewed. In the 23rd khanda, we are told that there are three branches of duty.

(1)Sacrifice, Study and Charity.

(2) Austerity

(3) Student to spend his life in the house of his Guru. Any person who has fulfilled his duties as mentioned above obtains the world of the virtuous. However, fulfilling these duties or meditating on Sama alone does not fetch him Immortality. Immortality can only be achieved by firmly grounding himself on the Brahman.

Prajapati brooded on the worlds (performed meditation and penance). From them three-fold knowledge evolved. On further brooding, three syllables – Bhuh, Bhuvah, and Svah issued. These are called Vyahrtis. He continued brooding on the Vyahrtis and the syllable “Om” issued, which is Brahman. Just as all leaves are attached to the stalk all speech is attaché to the syllable “Om”.

In the 24th khanda the Upanishad explains that the morning oblation belongs to the Vasus; the mid-day libation to the Rudras and the evening libation to the Adityas and Visve-devas.


Meditation on the Sun and Shandilya Vidya

This chapter has 19 khandas. Out of the 19, the first eleven khandas deal with the Upasana of the Vedas, the Sun, Vasus, Rudras, Maruts etc. This is known by as Madhu Vidya. The 11th khanda details the benefits of the Vidya. The 12th and 13th khandas deal with Brahman through Gayatri. The 14th khanda states about the Shandilya Vidya. Shandilya was a great Rishi and he had this revelation of the Supreme Being. This meditation begins with a proclamation of the all-comprehensiveness of the Brahman -“Sarvam Kalvidam Brahma”

“Sarvam khalvidaṁ brahma tajjalāniti śānta upāsīta | atha khalu kratumayaḥ puruṣo yathākraturasmipuruṣo bhavati tathetaḥ pretya bhavati sa kratuṁ kurvīta – 3.14.1

This is a very famous passage in the Upanishad. We have to meditate that everything comes from That, everything is sustained in That and everything returns to That. Inasmuch as it is the cause of all things, every effect in the form of this creation is contained there. There is no separation between the cause and the effect. In other words, there is an undifferentiated relationship between the cause and the effect. This means we, as thinkers, are vitally connected with the Brahman on whom we have to think. We can think on


something outside us and we can also think on the whole Universe which is outside us. But how can we think on something in which we are ourselves involved? The mind refuses to think when the meditator is part of that which is being meditated upon. There is no such thing as mind thinking itself.

The individual is an embodiment of action performed through his will. And whatever we will, we become that. We have affirmed something very intensely in our previous life, and the reward of those affirmations is the present series of experiences we are going through. The corollary is – if we want to become the Absolute itself, we should spend our thoughts centred on Brahman. The Upanishad goes on to give some further details as to how we should conduct our meditation in our present life.

The whole world is permeated by this Being. The Self of this Being is as vast as space – askasatma; all actions are its actions – sarvakarma (it is the fingers of God working through these phenomena of nature); anything you smell is an activity of That Being – sarvagandha; all tastes are its activity – sarvarasah. This great Being is in one’s own heart and is as fine and subtle as one can conceive. It is subtler than the rice, grain, and mustard seed. At the same time it is as vast as the whole creation.

Sandilya, who was a great sage, proclaims this great knowledge: “This great Being whose actions are all the actions, whose desires are all the desires, whose functions are all the functions through the senses, is inside me and It is That which is inside everything.”

The 15th khanda describes for begetting long life and valour for one’s son. It is told that a well disciplined son is necessary for the salvation of the father. Hence, it becomes necessary to find out how longevity for the son could be obtained. This khanda deals with meditation and Japa required for this purpose. The 16th khanda deals with meditation required for one’s own longevity. It is called Purusha Vidya.

In Purusha Vidya a person is described as the sacrifice. The first 24 years is regarded as morning oblation, the next 44 years as mid-day oblation and the third 44 years as the third oblation. The Vidya says that anyone who knows this Vidya lives for 116 years without sickness or disease. The details of this Vidya are given in the mantras 1 to 7 of the 16th and 17th khanda of chapter-3. The 18th khanda deals with meditation on Brahman.



Samvarga Vidya

The first, second and third khandas deals with the story of king Jaanashruti and Rishi Raikva. The king was well known for his charity and goodness of heart. He was a great sage as well. One night he saw some flamingos flying past. He overheard the birds speaking about a Rishi Raikva, the man with a cart, and his greatness. The king was greatly interested in meeting with this Rishi. He commissioned a search for the Rishi and with great difficulty his messengers located the Rishi. The king went and met with Rishi Raikva and offered him great wealth and his daughter in marriage with the request to teach what he knew. The Rishi finally agreed to teach after he was convinced about the king’s sincerity. The Rishi initiated the king into the mystery of meditation on the all-absorbing Being. Because of the character of all- absorption, the great Being on which Rishi Raikva was meditating came to be known Samvarga. The Rishi explained of a symbolic cosmic air where- everything is absorbed into it, everything rises from it, everything is maintained in it and everything goes back into it. It is on this Vayu, the great deity that Raikva was meditating. Due to fear of this great Being, the planets, the stars and the Sun direct their courses in a given manner. The fire burns due to fear of It and the rain falls due to fear of It. Death performs its duty due to fear of It. At the micro-cosmic level, inside the individual there is the Prana operating in a similar role. The Samvarga Vidya teaches on how the external and internal controlling factors could be brought together in meditation and envisaged as a single Reality.

The 4th to the 9th khanda deals with the story of Satyakama his efforts to know Brahman and the teachings he received. Khandas 10 to 15 deal with the story of Upakosala and his progress in learning about Brahman. The 17th khanda deals with penances for mistakes commited during a sacrifice.


Panchagni and Vaisvanara Vidyas Panchagni Vidya

The Panchagni Vidya is detailed in Chapter V – khandas 3 to 10. Basically, it deals with a common phenomenon in our lives – the phenomenon of life and death. Though we witness birth and death in our everyday life, we do not know why people are born and why they die. The causes are not known. The Upanishad, in these meditations, tries to introduce us to a new type of knowledge which could be the solution to our sorrows.

Once again the Upanishad commences with a story. Svetaketu Aruneya becomes very arrogant after completing his Vedic studies. He goes to the


court of the king of Panchaladesa, Pravahana by name. The king notices the arrogance of Svetaketu and asks him 5 questions. (1) Do you know where people go after they die (2) Do you know where people come from when they are reborn (3) Do you have any idea of the paths by which the soul ascends. The paths are known as Devayana and Pitriyana. What are the differences these two paths (4) Why is it that the yonder world is not overflowing with people (5) Do you know what are 5 oblations that are offered and how the fifth oblation as liquid becomes a human being. Svetaketu did not know the answers for any one of them. In great agony and frustration he rushes to his father and narrates his humiliation. His father confesses that he also does not know the answers for these questions. The curious father, Gautama, then goes to the court of the king, as a humble student, seeking answers to these questions. The knowledge that the King, Pravahana, passed on to the father has been called “Panchagni Vidya”.

The five fires, called the Panchagni, mentioned here are not actually fires in the physical sense. They are meditational techniques. The fire itself is symbolic of a sacrifice which one performs through contemplation.

What are the five fires?

(a) Celestial region (Heaven)

(b) the Atmosphere (consisting of rain and wind) (c) the Earth

(d) Man

(e) woman

are conceived as the five stages of fire.

These five stages of fire become the object of meditation known as the Panchagni-Vidya. These fires together with five acts of the Universe are conceived of as sacrifices. What are the five acts of the Universe? Fire, fuel, smoke, flame, coals and sparks are the five acts.

The Upanishad tells us that the whole universal activity of creation may be conceived of as a kind of sacrifice – Yagna. In a Yagna no ritual is isolated. They are all inter connected and form a single comprehensive act. In a similar way the whole universal manifestation is a continuous inter connected process. On that basis, births, deaths and other phenomenal experiences are not isolated factors. True knowledge is obtained when we reach a stage at which we can find the connection between the visible effects that we experience, with the invisible causes that produced them. This Vidya explains


the phenomenon of birth and death. While telling us about the birth, the Vidya talks about the stages of descent of the soul into the physical body which it puts on when it comes to the world The journey of the soul after it leaves the body is also detailed. The Upanishad, in its exposition of the Panchagni- Vidya, takes the standpoint of the wider background that operates behind every event in the phenomena of natural processes. Things are not what they seem to be; there is a deeper significance behind every visible process or activity in Nature.

The departure of the soul is briefly given below –

When the Jivatma leaves the body, the following also leave –

The five senses of knowledge (Jnana Indriyas). (2) The five senses of action (Karma Indriyas) (3) Mans (Mind) (4) Mukhya-Prana (Principal vital air). When the Mukhya Prana departs the other Pranas also depart (5) The five elements – Ether, Air, Fire, Water and Earth in subtle form.

The power of speech stops. A person may be able to think but cannot speak The thinking function stops. Life may still be there

The Prana reaches the soul or Jivatma. After this the soul joins with the five gross elements (Panchabhutas). They all depart from the body

Those who have performed well during their life time go to Chandraloka and enjoy themselves there. When they have nearly exhausted the rewards for their good deeds they return to earth – with some residual Karma. The souls return the way they went. From the heaven to ether, ether to air, to smoke, then mist, to cloud and from the cloud he rains down. He is born as rice, corn, herbs, tree etc. This as food is eaten by man who passes it on to a woman. The family he is to be born into is regulated by the remainder of Karma.

Chandogya Upanishad written by Swami Krishnananda and “What becomes of the soul after death” by Swami Sivananda are excellent references on this topic.

Vaisvanara Vidya

The Vaisvanara Vidya is detailed in Chapter V – khandas 12 to 18. The Upanishad tries to bring a greater understanding regarding the Atman and the Supreme Brahman. Once again a story is told to drive home the point. Six wise men learned in Vedic lore, themselves great meditators, could not come to a conclusion as to the final destination of their meditations. The names of the great men are – Prachinasala Aupamanyava, Satyayajna Paulushi, Indradyumna Bhallaveya, Jana Sarkarashya, Budila Avastarasvi and Aruni Uddalaka. They decided to approach King Ashvapati, a great meditator on the Principle called Vaishvanara.


The king Ashvapati asked each one of them a single question – “What is it that you are meditating already?”. Their answers are given below.

Aupamanyava: I meditate on Heaven as the Supreme Being

Satyayajna: I meditate upon the Sun as the Supreme Being.

Bhallaveya: I meditate upon the Cosmic Air as the Supreme Being.

Jana Sarkarashya: I meditate upon the all-pervading space as the Supreme Being.

Budila Avastarasvi: I meditate upon the water as the Supreme Being.

Aruni Uddalaka: : I meditate upon the Earth as the Supreme Being.

The king then addressed them and said “You are all very sincere in your meditations. But all of you have not realised that you have committed errors in your meditations. In fact, you have made two mistakes.

1. You have considered some parts of whole as the whole. You have considered the finite as the infinite. The mind is accustomed to think in only finite objects.

2. Thesecondmistakeyouaremakingis–youareconsideringAtmanas an object, as if it is outside you. When you say Space, water etc, realise that all of them are outside you. How can Atman be outside you? How can your own self be external to you? Self cannot be outside itself; it cannot be an object of itself. Two points you have to learn. A finite thing cannot be regarded as Infinite. External thing cannot be considered as the Self. Whatever you have obtained through these discrete meditations can be obtained through a single total meditation on Vaishvanara Atman. If you can envisage in a comprehensive way from the highest to the lowest, and if it can be the Atman and the Supreme Self at the same time, then that is Vaisvanara Atman.


Teaching by Uddalaka to Svetaketu

There lived a great sage by the name of Uddalaka. He sent his son Svetaketu to a gurukul to study. The son underwent the whole course of education. – Vedas, Shastras and scriptures. As it quite often happens Svetaketu became arrogant with his knowledge. The father, Uddalaka, noticed this. He called his son and asked him whether he has studied everything? The father then asked him “Do you know That, by knowing which, everything is known? Do you know That by which unheard becomes heard and the un-thought becomes thought?. The son went pale and replied that he had never heard, let alone be


taught, such things. He then humbly requests his father to enlighten him further on the topic.

The dialog that follows between the father and son forms the basis of Uddalaka’s teaching on the oneness of the Self.

Uddalaka says that by knowing one lump of clay all things made of clay are known. You call the manufactured articles as pot, mug, jug etc. The differences lie in the shapes that you see and the names you call them by. In other words, these differences that arise are due to the concepts in your mind.

Sage Uddalaka continues.

In the beginning, there was a single Reality, without a second. There was nothing outside it; or different from it. Some people say that in the beginning there was non-existence and that the Universe was born out of it. That is impossible. You cannot have existence be born out of non-existence. Then the Supreme Being or Sat, thought to Himself “let me be many”. Then out of Himself, He projected the Universe. Having thus projected, He then entered into every being and everything. All that is, has its self in Him alone. He is the subtle essence of all. Names and forms came into existence on account of this action of multiplication.

The bees go to different flowers and collect the essences of those flowers and what they have collected is called honey. This mass of honey cannot distinguish the essence of one flower from another. Everything has become indistinguishable. Similarly, all creatures when they reach that One Existence, whether in dreamless sleep or in death, know nothing of their past or present existence. All distinctions vanish. The pure Being is the Self of all and is behind all your activities, behind your sleep, behind your birth, death and indeed behind the whole process of Universal evolution. “O Svetaketu, That thou art (Tat Tvam Asi).

Uddalaka continues with his teaching. The rivers flow in different directions – east or west and finally enter the Ocean. In the end they do not know from which river they came from. Similarly, all beings in creation tend towards the ocean of the ultimate Being. When they go there they cannot distinguish themselves, for they become one with the Being. This is the Reality, this is the Being of all things, and you too are that –“ Tat-Tvam-Asi”

Uddalaka goes further. Look at this big tree. If someone cuts off one of its branches, some juice will flow from the severed branch indicating that life is till there. If another branch is cut off, the result will be the same and life continues. And what is life? It cannot be defined. One day the whole tree may dry up indicating the departing of life from the tree. Death does not mean


death of the life principle itself. In this example, it just indicates that particular form is dead.

Though the bodies may be many, the shapes may be many the Self is only one. That you are Svetaketu – Tat Tvam Asi”.

Svetaketu was excited and requested for more of the knowledge his father was teaching him. Uddalaka asked his son to bring a fruit from the Nyagrodha tree (Banyan tree). He then asked his son to break it open. He asked what “what do you see inside it. The boy replied “I see small granules”. Now, split the small seed, the father asked. With great difficulty the son managed to split the seed. Now what do you see, the father asked. The son replied that he cannot see anything. Uddalaka told Svetaketu that the large tree grows from the subtle essence that cannot be seen by the naked eye. Is it not a miracle? So is this vast Universe. The essence of the whole Universe is the Self of the whole Universe. And that Svetaketu, “That art thou”

Uddalaka then asked his son to bring a little salt and put it in a cup of water. He then asked his son to return the next day. He asked Svetaketu to bring the salt back from the water. He could not because the salt has become one with water. The father then asked his son to taste the water which he did and told it tastes salty. Uddalaka explained that in the same way, though we cannot see Brahman in this body, He is indeed there. Though the salt cannot be seen in the water, it can be verified by other means. So is the case with Brahman.

When a man is fatally ill, his relatives gather around him and ask him “ Do you recognise us? If the senses are active he would recognise them. Once the senses are withdrawn into the mind, he can think but not speak. Towards the last stages, the mind stops its functions and he cannot think. At this stage the mind is withdrawn into the Pranas. The will only be breathing and thinking and sensing ceases. Finally, the breath also gets withdrawn. When Prana is gone mere heat or fire is there. When heat is also withdrawn into the Supreme Being there is no consciousness and there is no bodily life.


Sanatkumara’s instructions on Bhuma Vidya

Narada is a Divine sage who has fulfilled all his responsibilities and attained all knowledge. There was practically nothing that he did not know. In addition he was a great saint and sage. Yet he felt inadequate and suffered from a lack of peace. This renowned person now comes as a humble disciple to Sage Sanatkumara – son of Lord Brahma and requests the master to teach him. What follows came to be known as Bhuma Vidya.

The previous chapter discussed about the unity of Being and Self. This teaching is meant for a disciple of the highest grade. It has not discussed


anything about lower Realities an account of which may be needed for disciples of a middle grade. True, the lower reality is not excluded from the higher one, as the higher includes the lower, and the highest is everything and is all-inclusive. Yet a clarification from a Master like Sanatkumara will be greatly cherished by the mankind.

Sanatkumara enquires as to what Narada wants him to teach. He further says “Let me know what you have already learnt. If there are any gaps, I shall tell you that”. Narada humbly gives a full list of all the branches of learning that he has studied and mastered. It was an impressive list. Sanatkumara looks at him intently and replies “All these are only names. This knowledge is nothing. Name enables you to have an idea of that object. Name is known but the contents are not known and as such we do not have a control on the object just knowing its name. This is the status of theoretical learning. However, though this may be theory, it is not without any utility. It has an importance in that it is the beginning of knowledge. This is the first step”Namopassava”. Therefore meditate on “Name” as Brahman.

Narada then asks “Is there anything superior to Name”

Sanatkumara replies “Yes, there is. And that is Speech. Everything that one learns – Vedas, sciences etc has speech as its background. Speech is the cause for the name. The cause is superior to effect. Speech is superior to all objects of sense, the Five elements, pleasure, pain, virtue, vice, good bad and all objects of knowledge and, in fact, every subject that Narada has knowledge of. The Master told Narada to meditate on Speech as Brahman”.

Narada then asks “Is there anything beyond speech”. Yes, there is, Sanatkumara answers. It is the Mind.

Mind controls speech. Mind is the cause of all expressions. Just as a folded palm can contain two small fruits, the mind can contain within itself both speech and name. The mind is responsible for anything that we achieve in this world, because what we call world is nothing but the field of experience. So, Narada meditate on the Mind as Brahman, the Absolute. We should control the mind completely and rule over it, by identification of our true Being with everything that the mind can think of. This is one stage in the process of meditation.

Narada persisted and asked “Is there anything superior to the mind”. Sanatkumara replied “Yes, surely there is. Sankalpa is greater than the Mind”.

Behind the mind there are forces more concentrated in their nature. There is this creative will operating as a directive intelligence for the mind. It is termed as “Sankalpa”. So Sanatkumara told Narada to meditate on Sankalpa.

Narada was thrilled. He asks “Is there anything more than will”


There surely is. It is memory replies the Master.

The will cannot operate unless there is a cohesive force behind the functions of thought. This function of the mind which we call as will would not be possible unless there is another capacity which we call as memory. There are two essential criteria needed before the will can be directed. (a) Capacity of remembrance or retention of experiences (b) an awareness of the target towards which the will is going to be directed. This function which is precedent to the rise of will is called Chitta. Beyond the will is the power of memory and retention. Everything is rooted in memory.

Sanatkumara directs Narada to meditate on Chitta as Brahman.

Narada then asks “Is there anything beyond Chitta”

Sanatkumara replies “Yes, there is, Narada. It is Dhyana (concentration).”

Concentration is fixity of mind. Wherever we find stability of any kind we will discover concentration. The Upanishad says that Earth contemplates – on account of its stability and fixity of character. Whoever obtained success, whether he is a God or human being, obtained it through the power of concentration of the mind. Nothing in life has any sense or meaning when concentration is absent.

So Narada meditate on concentration (Dhyana) as Brahman. Narada pursues and asks “Is there anything superior to Dhyana”. Vijnana (understanding) is superior to Dhyana replies Sanatkumara.

The problems which one will face in the practice of concentration will have to be understood beforehand. Hence Understanding is superior to Concentration. In life the meaning that we discover is based on the understanding we have derived from our experiences. Where the understanding is not there the meaning is absent.

Narada asks is there anything superior to Vijnana?

Yes, Balam (Strength) is superior to Vijnana.

The Master says that mere understanding in theoretical form is of no use – as it is application of theory in one’s brain. There is need to connect one’s understanding with realities of mind. So strength is superior to understanding. Strength means a blend of functions of mind with the functions of the body.

Is there something greater than strength asked Narada.

That which gives strength is superior to strength. That is called as “anna” –

Food. Sanatkumara continues – Water is superior to food. Here it refers to 142

water principle. In general subtler principles are superior grosser ons because they are more pervasive in character. You will notice that water principle is superior to Earth principle.

Meditate on water principle

Fire principle is superior to water. Hence meditate on Fire. Air principle is superior Fire. Space (Akasa) is superior Air. So meditate on Akasa.

Is there anything superior to Akasa.

Yes, Smara is superior to Space (Akasa). Consciousness of self existence which we feel as identical with our own consciousness (Smara refers to this consciousness) is superior to space. If we ourselves are not there then there is no question space being there.

Now Hope (or aspiration for betterment) is superior to Space. So meditate on


In answer to Narada’s further questioning Sanatkumara says Life is superior to Asa. Without life everything is meaningless. The greatest knowledge is the knowledge of life – not merely the knowledge of objects of sense.

Sanatkumara declares that he who knows the eternal truth is the true knower. When a man has realised the eternal truth he declares it. But to realise, he has to first reflect upon it. A man with faith and reverence reflects on eternal truth. A person who struggles to achieve self-control attends on a Guru. Once he attains self-control he finds joy in it. There is no happiness in the finite. The source of true happiness is infinite – neither the mind nor the external world. And what is happiness. “Happiness is plenum, happiness is completeness, it is totality and it is absolute”. The term Bhuma is used in this Upanishad. Roughly translated it implies absoluteness in quality as well as quantity, uncontaminated, permanency of every type, immortality, infinity and eternity. Brahman of all the Upanishads is the same as Bhuma mentioned here in this Upanishad. That alone is happiness.

Sanatkumara then goes on to define Bhuma. “ Where one sees nothing except one’s own Self, where one hears nothing except one’s own Self, where one understands nothing except one’s own Self, that is Bhuma, the Absolute. Where one sees something outside oneself, where one hears something outside oneself, where one understands or thinks something outside oneself, that is the finite.”

Narada asks where Bhuma is located.


Sanatkumara replies that “It sis self-supported, self-complete and self- existent. It is not a relative Being. It is an absolute Being. It is everywhere. The whole cosmos is filled with it.

He who knows and meditates upon the truth of the Self realises that the whole Universe issues from it.

Given below is a sketch to summarise the various levels of realities discussed between Sage Sanatkumara and Sage Narada.

Bhuma Vidya

Happiness Activity

Steadfastness Understanding


Life Asa (Hope)

Name Fire

Water (Anna) Food

Balam Vijnana Dhyana




Speech (Akasa)Ether






Dahara Vidya

Dahara Vidya occurs in the Chandogya Upanishad, Chapter 8; Khanda-1

This is one of the greatest of the Vidyas. The all-pervading and all-inclusive nature of the Self is stressed upon in this Vidya. In this meditation, the meditator feels the whole universe as his Self and excludes nothing from the One Self. This Vidya further explains the identity of the external and the internal, the objective and the subjective, the macrocosmic and the microcosmic, the universal and the individual-Brahman and Atman.

The Upanishad tells us that there is a city of Brahman, the Absolute, within our own Self. A very small lotus like abode exists in our own heart. In this little abode there is little space that shines by its own light. This is the city of Brahman. What is inside this city of Brahman? Do not be fooled. Do not be under the impression that it is geometrically small. That which is inside can magnify itself to any extent. The whole of the heaven and the Earth can be found inside this little space. The principle of Five elements – Earth, Water, Fire, Air, Ether and whatever else you can find outside are present inside this little space. The Sun, Moon and stars can be found inside our heart. The Upanishad also says that whatever you cannot see outside can be seen within this space. The reason for this is our heart is the true representative of the Ultimate Reality. The outer world cannot be regarded as such a representative. Why do we say that? The outer world is only that aspect of Reality which can be comprehended by our senses. Whatever the senses are incapable of grasping cannot be contained in the external world. Our experience is limited by our senses. All investigation in the field of spirituality is internal only and not external.

Absolute is Universal in its nature. And this makes it very hard for the mind to comprehend. This chapter confines itself to the heart of the individual. When we talk about heart, we are not talking about the physical heart. Heart here is just a symbol representing the consciousness which is located within this body. Though located within the body, it cannot be limited or contained on account of its super-physical nature. Not only that. This heart which we are about to discuss is a mysterious thing. What is the mystery? To start with – whatever we desire is available in one’s own heart. The objects of one’s desire are contained here and shall be available for experience, the moment they are invoked in an appropriate manner.

What happens to this heart when one gets old or when the person dies? Does it also wither and die? The Upanishad clarifies – this heart does not get old, does not die or get destroyed. That is because it is the city of God. In fact, what we refer to as heart is the Atman. As Atman, it is free from any affliction,


sorrow, aging destruction etc. It feels no hunger, no thirst and is self-existent. It asks for nothing because whatever it desires will materialise at once. It’s will is pure in character and uncontaminated by any falsehood. However, the more this will of the human being is drawn out, the more does it get contaminated by the evil of externality. And the more does it get contaminated the more difficult does it become in contacting objects of one’s desire. By the same reason the more inward we go towards our own Self, the greater will be the strength of our will and consequently the greater will be our chances in obtaining objects of our desire. This will happen when our consciousness, will and thought functions are rooted in Truth. This is the meaning of Satya-kama and Satya-sankalpa.

Upanishad tells us about the power of the will of a person who has Self- realisation, and the capacity that person has. Nothing is impossible for that person. If he wants to see his forefather in the other world, he can see him at once. His wish will be fulfilled instantly. There is one condition though. The will has to be exercised in a proper manner. The will has to be in-tune with the law of the Atman.

In the case of people who are not rooted to Truth, their actions are limited by factors outside their control – similar to the case of subjects under a king. There will be a limit on what such conditioned people can achieve. The external conditioning force may be due to the king, as in this example, or due to some powerful laws of nature. Karma is a very powerful law of nature. It leads one to re-birth and suffering. So the actions performed by an individual yield only transient results. As a consequence, our actions in this world bring about conditions which give us conditioned happiness. Limited results follow all actions.

Actions performed in this world produce transient results. Not only that, virtuous actions do produce beneficial results in the other world. But those results are also transient in nature. Just as secular actions produce limited results in the secular world, so do religious acts and virtuous deeds produce limited results in the other world. Even if we perform a wealth of virtuous acts in this world and after death reach shining regions of paradise, they will yield only limited experiences, because, after all, all these experiences are action- born.

However, it is different in the case of those great people who know what this Atman is. They are not limited by the outside laws. As the knowers of the Atman, Upanishad says, they know what the ultimate Reality is. Then the law of the outside world becomes the law of the inside world. The law of the Atman is the law of the Universe. Therefore, there is absolute freedom for those who are knowers of this great secret. Whatever they will, it expresses itself in experience at once.


When we understand the Reality, there is no such thing as this world and another world. There are not many worlds; there is only one vast continuum of experience. Extending this thought, when we talk about people who have left this world, those who are yet to be born – we are only talking about them whom we carry in our own heart, in the Ether of our consciousness. The various Lokas, in the so-called external Universe are present in our heart. They can be invoked from within us by the strength of the mind. The greatest obstacle to this perception of the Universe arises when the Consciousness gets locked up in a body. Explaining differently, – in every kind of cognition there is a cognition of Reality. However, we mistake the Being for objects on account of the habit of the mind to define things in different ways.

The moment the consciousness is freed from bodily attachment, it rises upwards like a flame of brilliance. There is a composure. This composure which has arisen on account of freedom of consciousness from bodily shackles is Samprasada. At this stage one recovers his real nature and shakes off the notion of connections with bodies. This is the real Atman free from all entanglement. This is immortal. This is also what we call as Brahman. What we call as Truth, is Brahman.

What is Satyam? The Upanishad says Satyam is – Sa-ti-yam. The first letter stands for immortal; the second for mortal; the third yam refers to that which holds them together. That which holds mortal and immortal together is Antaryamin. The Supreme Reality holds the subject and object together- meaning consciousness matter. The means for realisation of the great Truth is being explained. The word Brahmacharya is used. The conduct of Brahman is called as Brahmacharya. It is a total abstraction of the senses which recognises itself alone, to the exclusion of everything else. Self control is the highest austerity that can be practiced. A person with no control over his senses cannot enter the city of Brahman.

Brhadaranyaka Upanishad

This Brihadaranyaka Upanishad is the oldest and the greatest of all the Upanishads. Sri Shankara’s Bhashya on this Upanishad is the best among his commentaries. The theme of this Upanishad is to establish the unity of Brahman and the Atman. It comprehends both the Upadesa and revelation of the true nature of the mystic experience of the Brahman – Atman identity and the Upapatti or logical explanations of that great doctrine of Advaita through the employment of dialectic modes argumentation.

The Upanishad consists of three Khandas. The first one is called Madhu Khanda. It conveys the main teaching of the Advaita doctrine and is of the nature of Upadesa. The second Khanda is called Muni-Khanda. This gives logical arguments and explanations confirming the soundness of the


Upadesa. The third one is called Khila-Khanda and deals with certain Upasanas.

The Upanishad consists of :

(a) 3 Khandas

(b) 6 Adhyayas (chapters)

(c) 47 Brahmanas (sections)

(d) 427 verses or mantras

It is in this Upanishad that we come across the famous Pavamana mantra “asa to ma sad gamaya; tamaso ma jyotir gamaya; mrutyor ma amrutam gamaya” (Lead me from the un-real to the real; from darkness to light; from death to immortality- Refer Madhu Khanda; Udgitha Brahmana; Mantra 28: 1-3-28). The Upanishad is very voluminous. So we will be dealing with, not the entire Upanishad, but only with some selected sections of it.

Maitreyi Vidya

This is a narration of a conversation between the great sage Yajnavalkya and his wife Maitreyi.

The sage tells his wife “I am going to retire from the life of a householder and enter into the fourth order in life (Sanyasa). I now intend to divide my property between you and Katyayani (second wife) before I take up to renunciation”. For this Maitreyi responded “you propose to divide the property between the two of us. Is it possible for us to be happy by possession of material comfort and property? If I am the owner of the entire earth, and if the wealth of the whole world is mine, will I be perpetually happy, or will there be some other factor which will intrude upon my happiness in spite of my possession of the values of the entire world? Is it possible to attain immortality through wealth”.

Yajnavalkya told the truth “No, you cannot be happy. Yes, you will be comfortable – but you will be in the same state in other respects. Immortality is not possible through possessions.” Maitreyi then asks that if it is insecure to start, then what good can she get from the riches that her husband is proposing to give her. She then requests her husband to tell her as to what she should engage herself in so that she will be eternally happy. Yajnavalkya was happy to hear the question. The whole subject turns into a discourse on eternal and temporal wealths. Wealths such as physical, social, comfort giving objects go under the category of temporal wealth. In the case of such kind of wealths, possession is conditioned by time. On the contrary, Permanent wealth is not conditioned by time. The sage explains that not one person or


wealth is dear in this world, but what is dear is that condition which is imagined to be present after possession of the object or that relationship.

Yajnavalkya goes on with his exposition to Maitreyi. Neither the husband is dear to the wife, nor the wife is dear to the husband. What is dear is a condition which they try to bring about in their mind by that relation. That condition is always missed, and so the happiness expected never comes. He advises Maitreyi that it is the Atman which is to be meditated upon. Anything outside you cannot belong to you and cannot satisfy you. It will leave you and eventually bring sorrow to you. It is the Atman that appears as all these things. This point is not grasped by the mind. Yajnavalkya brings home the point that the effect cannot be known unless the cause is known – because the effect is a manifestation of the cause. The sage gives an example. The sound made by a percussion instrument cannot be properly identified if the instrument is far away and not visible to the eyes. Smoke sparks are emitted from the fire kindled with wet fuel. In the same way the Rig Veda, Yajur Veda, Sama Veda, mythology (purana), the arts (vidya), the Upanishads, verses (slokas), aphorisms (sutras), elucidations (anuvyakhyanas) and explanations (vyakhyanas) are all a part of breath of this Infinite Reality. All these have been extracted from the Supreme Self. Yajnavalkya then said that when a lump of salt is dropped into the water it immediately gets dissolved and then it cannot be separated. From there-on samples of water taken from anywhere will taste as saltish. In a similar way, when the individual Self comes out as a separate entity from the elements its separate existence gets destroyed. After it becomes one with the Absolute Self it does not have consciousness. Individuality arises by identification of the Self, through ignorance, with the elements. Where there is consciousness of the Self, individuality is no more. As long as there is duality – one sees the other, one hears the other, one smells the other etc. However, for an enlightened soul “the all” is dissolved in the Absolute Self. In such a case who is there to be seen by whom etc. By what shall we reveal the intelligence that reveals all?

Akshara Vidya

By the 3rd chapter of this Upanishad we are entering central portion of this Upanishad. One king Janaka was a great knower of the self. This king was curious to find out as to who was the most learned person in his country. He then organised a huge sacrifice in his palace and thousands of sages, saints and scholars from all over the country were invited. He announced in an open court that the wisest among them will be awarded 1000 cows and other riches. No one from the stunned audience made a move. Sage Yajnavalkya was in that court and he ordered his disciple to take the cows to his house. This move by the sage upset all the other learned men at the venue. One


after another they started putting questions to Yajnavalkya. Using this debate as a basis the Upanishad reveals some of the profound truths.

Gargi, the daughter of Vachaknu, addressed the sages in the hall and said “ I shall ask Yajnavalkya two questions. If he is able to answer them, then no one from among you can ever defeat him. He will be the great expounder of the truth of Brahman. Addressing Yajnavalkya, she said I dart two pointed arrows of questions at you. Be prepared to answer them. That of which they say is above the heaven and below the earth; that which is between heaven and earth as well; that which was in the past, that which is in the present, and shall be there in the future. If there is something like that, on what is it founded?” The Sage answered that it is un-manifested Ether – “avyakrita Akasa”. And Gargi accepted the answer.

Her second question was “ In what is the un-manifested Ether rooted?”

The Sage answers, that it is the imperishable Absolute. The great ones call it as Akshara. It is not gross because it is not visible as an object; it is not subtle because it is not different from the gross. You cannot call it long; you cannot call it short, because it is not in space. It cannot be called as possessed of any colour, because colour is the perception of the eyes. And it is already ruled out as being an object of any kind. So it has no colour. It cannot be associated with anything; it cannot be related to anything. It stands by itself. It cannot be regarded as the cause of anything, also. It does not cast a shadow. It is light by itself. It is not darkness also, because it sees everything. It is not space; it is not air; it is not water; it is not earth; it is not an object; it is not individual; it is not you; it is not me. It stands by itself. It has no space. You cannot grasp it through the senses of taste, sight, hearing, etc. It has no eyes; but it sees everything. It has no ears; it hears everything. It has no speech, but it speaks, and all the languages are known to it. It has no mind; it thinks all things. It has no Prana ; it does not breathe. It is not an individual being. It has no mouth. It has no organs. It has no measure of any kind, sensory or psychological—It is not inside; it is not outside. It does not consume anything—and it is not consumed by anyone. Neither it wants anything, not is wanted by anybody. Nothing is an object to it, and it is not an object to anyone. Such a mysterious thing is the ultimate Reality This is the Para Brahman.


Ushasta-Kahola Vidya

The debate at King Janaka’s place to identify the wisest among those assembled continues.

It was Ushasta’s turn to pose a question to Yajnavalkya. He asks “the transmigration of the Self based on his merits and de-merits has been adequately documented. The question arises as to whether the individual self within all that migrates from body to body exists or does not exist. If it exists what is it like?”.

Yajnavalkya answers- “This is yourself that is within all” Explaining within all, the Sage says “that which breaths through the Prana is the individual self of the body and organs. It is that principle distinct from the body and organs which make them function.” Pressed for further explanation, Yajnavalkya says “you cannot see that which is the witness of the vision. You cannot hear what which is hearer of hearing; you cannot think that which is the thinker of the thought; you cannot know that which is the knower of knowledge. This is yourself that is within all. Everything else but this is perishable”.

Kahola Kausitakeya continues with the questioning. His question was very similar to that by Ushasta.. Yajnavalkya gives a different answer. The Atman is a tremendous Reality. Once you have known it you will never ask for anything else. It is Atman that frees you from the tortures of hunger, thirst, sorrow, confusion, old age and death. It is the absence of the realisation of this Atman that makes us grief-stricken in many ways. Our experiences in this life basically are psychological, biological, social etc. Atman is transcendent to all these. Having known the Atman people renounce everything. For most of us, there are basically 3 desires – (a) build a family with children (b) accumulate wealth (c) work and build name and fame. People who have realised Atman no longer want them. They live like mendicants. Having renounced learning of every kind, he becomes like a child. This is the consequence of immense learning and realisation. You may ask “How does a man who has realised Atman conduct himself? The Upanishad says that there is no set limit for this great person. Whatever standard he sets forth will become a standard for others to follow. You may imitate him but he is not expected to imitate others”

Uddalaka-Aruni Vidya

We now arrive at a very important section of the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad. It is here that we come across the famous Antaryamin Brahmana.


It was the sage Uddalaka’s turn to question Yajnavalkya. He had basically two questions for which he wanted explanations. (a) “All the worlds, all beings are strung in a thread. What is this thread? (b) Do you know about the immanent principle, the Antaryamin?”

Yajnavalkya explains as follows. The Supreme Vital force of the cosmos is regarded as the thread on which everything is strung. All bodies in this world are formed in the mould of this Vital energy. The Vital Force has taken the shape of all forms which includes forms of the outside world and forms of all individual beings. That Universal Vital Force is the thread. In the case of the individual body it is the power which holds the bodies in proper positions. And every body, individual or otherwise, is strung on this thread and controlled by it. It is His Will and His Action that appears outside as the action of the people. This Vital Force holds the limbs of the body in unison and synchronised when the body was alive. When the action of this Vital Force is withdrawn, at the time of death, the parts of the body fall apart- because this Vital principle is absent.

Now to the second question related to the immanent principle. It is the Antaryamin – the one that controls everything from within. The discussion is now moving towards a principle which is capable of controlling anything yet cannot be seen or known!. It is called the internal Reality of the cosmos – Antaryamin. Yajnavalkya says that the Vital principle is inside this very earth holding the earth as a compact completeness. It is the cause of the very existence of earth and the earth is not aware of its presence. In fact, the whole earth is the body of this principle. It is sitting inside the earth and working. And this is your own Self. It is the Immortal Being This Atman, which is your Atman, which once again is your own Self is the Internal Ruler. It is immortal. In fact, it is the only thing that is immortal – everything else is mortal. When everything is active, this is not active. This is the goal of everyone. This is the Antaryamin. It is the true Ruler of everyone- Earth, Water, Fire, Air, Ether, the physical organs etc. All the gods, all the celestials, all elements are controlled by this Antaryamin. He is internal to all beings – you, me and everything else. Internal organs like – Prana, eyes, ears, mind etc are also controlled by Him. In fact, there is no separate group of gods, or celestials, other than this. There is no world, or universe, outside this. And there are no individuals external to it. No gods, no world, no individuals! All these three sets of apparent reality are only the manifestations, or rather appearances, of this one Supreme Being.

What we call as Antaryamin is the Atman, the Self, the Consciousness. You cannot see it, but it sees you and everyone. It can hear everyone and yet no one can hear it. If anyone thinks, it is that which thinks; if anyone hears, it is that which hears; if anyone sees, it is that which sees. If anyone understands anything, it is not you or I that understand, it is that which understands. If


anyone does anything, it is that which does it. This is the Reality and everything else is useless.

This concludes our brief examination of the famous Brihadaranyaka Upanishad.


Bhagavad Gita


Chapter VI – Gitas

In today’s world, prominence is given to Science and Technology and their applications. They provide comfort to citizens. Equal stress should be laid on humanities also. The concepts of right and wrong do not belong to the domain of science. Yet a study of ideas based these concepts are essential as human action and happiness depend on them. The Bhagavad-Gita is valuable guide of the supreme ends of life.

Every scripture has two sides – one temporary and perishable and the other eternal and imperishable. The perishable side belongs to the times of the commentators and to the people of that period and the particular country in which it was written. The eternal truths or messages the scriptures present are applicable to all ages and countries. The vitality of the scripture consists in its power to produce from time to time commentators who confirm the truths, from their own experience, relevant to their period. Bhagavad-Gita has been recognised for centuries as an orthodox scripture of the Hindu religion possessing equal authority with the Upanishads and Brahma Sutra with the three together forming the triple cannon (Prasthana -Traya). All Acharyas are obliged to justify their special doctrines by an appeal to these three authorities. The Upanishads contain many different suggestions about the nature of the Absolute Reality and its relation to the world. The Brahma Sutras are terse and obscure. On the other hand the Gita gives a more consistent view.

A number of eminent scholars, in modern times, have written books on the Gita and some excellent versions are available in English as well. However no translation of Gita could bring out the dignity and beauty of the original. Its melody and magic of phrase are difficult to recapture. Commentaries on the Gita were written by the famous Acharyas- Sri Shankaracharya, Sri Ramanujacharya and Sri Madhvacharya. They wrote commentaries in support of their own traditions (Sampradaya) and in refutation of others. In this short article we are not attempting a detailed analysis of this great poem Gita consisting of 700 verses. We will try to bring out a summary of the hexads with explanations based on the Vishishtadvaita doctrine. Again this article is based on the English translation of Sri Ramanuja Gita Bhashya by Swami Adidevananda. Sri Yamunacharya wrote a brief analysis (Gitartha Samgraha) of the teaching of Gita. Sri Ramanujacharya commented on the entire Gita on the lines set by Sri Yamunacharya.

According to Sri Yamunacharya, as given in his Gitartha Samgraha, Gita of 18 chapters is divided into 3 Hexads. The first hexad, consisting a group of six


chapters, deals with the Individual Self. The means of attaining it consists in Jnana Yoga and Karma Yoga. The next hexad deals with the Supreme Lord Sriman Narayana, the seat of all power and auspicious attributes. Salvation can be achieved only through His grace. None the less, one has to be worthy to be the recipient of His grace. The worthiness is attained through the practice of Bhakti which develops with the dawn of knowledge of the Self preceded by the performance of duties (Karma Yoga). In the last hexad details of earlier chapters are treated for completing them. Following is a summary of topics covered in each chapter.

Chapter-1:Bhagavad-Gita opens with a description of the scene of the battle field at Kurukshetra where the Kaurava and Pandava armies were gathered ready to start the war. Surveying the opponents gathered for the battle, Arjuna was overtaken with grief, compassion and perplexity. He was confused as to what Dharma was and what Adharma was. He takes refuge at the feet of Lord Krishna for his help and direction.

Chapter-2 In order to remove Arjuna’s delusion, Sri Krishna imparts the knowledge of Sankya and Yoga. They comprehend in their scope the eternal self and disinterested activity

Chapter-3 The need to perform works without attachment to any fruits other than the pleasure of the Lord and for the protection of the world is stressed

Chapter-4 The chapter treats matters such as – The Lord’s nature; the varieties of Karma Yoga and the eminence of knowledge in it.

Chapter-5The ease and fast efficiency of Karma Yoga; the mode of knowledge of Brahman i.e. the individual self are elaborated.

Chapter-6The teaching in this chapter includes – Practice of Yoga (concentration and meditation), the four-fold divisions of Yogins and the means to success in Yoga

Chapter-7This chapter discusses – Exact Knowledge of Himself; His concealment by Prakruti and the surrender to Him in order to overcome this; also classifies various types of devotees.

Chapter-8 In this chapter are discussed – distinctions of what are to be understood and acquired by each of the three classes of devotees

Chapter-9 In this chapter are discussed – The Lord’s eminence; His undiminished supremacy as the Divine even when He appears as an incarnation; the excellence of Mahatmas who seek God alone; the discipline of Bhakti.


Chapter-10 The chapter discusses – infinite auspicious attributes of the Lord; His absolute control over everything so as to generate Bhakti in the minds of aspirants.

Chapter-11 Vishvaroopa darshana given to His devotee, Arjuna

Chapter-12 The superiority of Bhakti Yoga is taught; details of qualities to be

acquired; modes of Sadhana to be practiced are given by the Lord.

Chapter-13The chapter discusses – nature of the body; means for the realisation of the self; nature of self; cause of bondage; discrimination between self and body

Chapter-14 In this chapter are discussed – Gunas and their binding effect; how to eliminate their hold

Chapter-15 The Supreme person is declared to be other than the self; He pervades, sustains and rules over Universe.

Chapter-16 Discusses distinction between Divine and demonic natures in order to establish what is truth and what is right conduct.

Chapter-17 This chapter discusses- What are ordained by Shastras and what are not.

Chapter-18 This last chapter discusses – mental state required for ascribing the agency to the Lord; the necessity for developing Sattvic quality; spiritual culmination of discharging one’s duties; Bhakti Yoga which forms the essence of Bhagavad-Gita.

Essence of First Hexad

Sri Ramanujacharya starts the Gita – Bhashya with salutations to his predecessor, Sri Yamunacharya. It is then followed up with glowing descriptions of Lord Narayana’s attributes. The Acharya points out that though the purpose of his incarnation was to relieve the burden on Earth, an equally important reason was to be available to all common men and women and give them an opportunity to see Him with their own eyes and take refuge in Him. Such opportunities do not come frequently – but may be once in a Yuga.

The actual commentary starts with Arjuna surveying the Kaurava warriors facing him. When he saw his grandfather, teachers, cousins and friends facing him he was grief stricken. He saw that the war would lead to the ruin of an entire clan and perishing of its ancient values. He threw his bow and arrows and sat with his heart overwhelmed with grief. He saw a great accrual of sin in waging the war and lost all desire for it.


Sri Krishna points out that the resolve to abstain from his duty as a Kshtriya leader was born out of a false notion that man is only a body (Prakruti) and the destruction of the body amounts to destruction of an entity known as man. This false notion can be removed by the knowledge of the truth about oneself. And this truth is that one is essentially Atman. Sri Ramanuja refers to it as Brahman. According to the Vishishtadvaita School the Realities are

Supreme Being: Cit – Acit visistam (qualified by both consciousness and unconscious entities)

Prakruti: Acit visistam (qualified by insentience only) Atman or individual soul:Cit visistam (qualified by only consciousness only)

The individual soul Atman, is Anu (atomic) in the Ramanuja system. Its individuality is not lost even in a liberated state. In the liberated state its attributive consciousness (Dharmabhuta-Jnana) becomes fully extended and has no obstructions. He becomes Vibhu (unlimited) and in this sense is Brahman. Commenting on Gita Ch.13,12 – “Anaadi matparam brahma na sat tan nasaad ucyate” Sri Ramanuja himself gives a justification for interpreting Brahman as Atman. “Mat-para” means one with me (Ishvara) as one’s superior. The one here refers to Brahman (i.e) the Atman who is a Sesha of Ishvara. Atman is associated with the quality of “infinite extensiveness” in its pristine state. Under the load of Karma it is conditioned to be within the body. This condition is only temporary and is true when it is under a state of bondage. When the Atman is liberated from bondage it regains its unlimited state and for this reason can be described as Brahman.

In its essential nature, the Atman is unaffected by any of its transformations of its material vestments such as body-mind. Thus weapons cannot cut it, fire cannot burn it, and wind cannot dry it. In fact nothing can destroy it. Not understanding this truth, Arjuna wanted to abandon his duty and take to a hermit’s life. To free Arjuna, his friend and disciple, from the false identification of the Essence in man with the body Sri Krishna preaches to him that the path that Arjuna wanted to follow will only lead him infamy on Earth and perdition thereafter. That is the price one pays for abandoning one’s Svadharma (duty in life).

The real path to higher evolution lies through karma Yoga and Jnana Yoga – the paths of work and knowledge. Though they look different as paths, in fact, they seek the same end. Jnana Yoga consists in the cultivation of a mental attitude that is exclusively riveted on the Atman. It will need fortification through a long practice of Karma Yoga. Though the path of Jnana Yoga is theoretically possible, in practice, however, it is impossible for anyone with body consciousness to follow it. Even if one succeeds to at least claim a partial success, the chances of the mind being blown away by the Vasanas or


tendencies of the mind. On the other hand Karma Yoga is suited to all aspirants. It consists in the discharge of all works ordained by the scriptures (3 kinds are there – daily obligatory duties, occasional duties, and desire prompted duties). Karma Yoga consists in performing all these duties without an eye on the fruits. To maintain such an attitude one must have the knowledge of being the Atman at the core and not the body. This is where Jnana Yoga is needed.

Sri Krishna advises that even those competent to practice Jnana Yoga should resort to Karma Yoga for 2 reasons – (a) there is nothing in it that obstructs the growth of Jnana (b) One will set an example for a vast majority to follow. So Sri Ramanujacharya advocates a combination of these two Yogas for the harmonious development of one’s spiritual life.

Essence of the Second Hexad: Bhakti Yoga

Chapters 7th to 12th are covered by the second Hexad. In this Hexad the doctrine of Bhakti is elaborated. In the Vishishtadvaita system Bhakti is built on the foundation of Jnana and not a preparatory discipline to Jnana as in the Advaita system. In addition the meaning of Jnana differs vastly between the two systems. In the Advaita system it is the intuitive understanding that the Jiva is one with the Ishvara. However, in the Vishishtadvaita system it is the understanding that one is the Atman and not mere body-mind. One who has achieved it is referred to in the Gita as Sthita-Prajna. An aspirant who has achieved this state gets a continuous memory of Ishvara. And Ishvara is the over-lord (Sesi) to whom the aspirant is liege (Sesha). This understanding of one’s correct relationship with Ishvara is the higher aspect of Jnana that helps devotion to attain fullest maturity. When the Jiva gets established in Atman consciousness (Atmaavalokana Buddhi) then a continuous and unobstructed flow of consciousness towards Lord Narayana starts occurring. This is Bhakti in its highest form and described by expressions such as Para-Bhakti and Parama Bhakti. Unless this is achieved, the load of Karma obstructs the flow of memory towards the Lord.

Before a stable Bhakti gets established, some preparatory work could be practiced. The practice of Karma Yoga ably informed by Jnana Yoga in the practice of the 3 kinds of works indicated earlier can be performed as an offering to Purushottama, the Supreme Being. These can be done by all aspirants at any stage. There are other aids to devotion like worship of images in temples, visiting holy places etc.

The description of Supreme Being takes centre stage in the second Hexad. He is the origin, support and dissolving ground of the whole Universe. Though He is distinct from and unaffected by it, He is one whole with the animate nature (Jiva) and the inanimate nature (Jagat) forming His two powers or Prakritis. These two powers (Jiva- Jagat) constitute the Cosmos which forms


His body. The body-soul (Sarira-Sariri) relationship between Ishvara and His Prakritis is used by Sri Ramanuja to explain the Mahavakya (“Tat Tvam Asi”) of the Vedanta. Tat Tvam Asi (meaning That Thou Art) declares some kind of identity between the Supreme Being (“Tat”) and Jiva (“Tvam”). Sri Ramanuja interprets that the relationship between Ishvara and Cosmos as a whole on the one hand and every Jiva on the other hand is explained by his body-soul (Sarira-Sariri) doctrine. The mighty Ishvara who is the in-dweller in the cosmic body is also in-dweller in every Jiva. “Tat” refers to Ishvara as the in-dweller of the Cosmic body, and “Tvam” refers to the same Ishvara as the in-dweller of the Jiva. Thus all bodies, Cosmic and Individual are held together in an indissoluble relationship (Aprthak-siddhi) in one and same Ishvara. As an example, waves which we see as distinct from water in the ocean as a whole cannot be separated from the ocean. It can have no existence separate from the ocean. Similarly, in the relation between Ishvara and the Jiva-Jagat, the distinction between them is eternal and in the nature of things.

As the Jiva-Jagat constitutes His body and are His Prakaaraas (modes) He can be called the material cause of the Universe (for, this Universe is completely moulded by His will). He is also the instrumental cause of the Universe (Nimitta-Kaarana) in its evolution and dissolution. The Karmas of the Jivas are what make them work in a particular way. But the sanctioning will of God is essential for the fulfilment of the Karmas.

Bhakti is generated by contemplation on the Divine mystery and majesty. His mystery consists in that He manifests this Universe of both living and non- living beings and also dwells in them as their Soul. At the same time, it is not He that is contained by them but it is He who contains them. He pervades everything without being affected or limited by them. His will is their support from without and His pervasion from within. And His majesty consists in being the All-creator. He is the only Being free from the hold of Karma. Also it is He who distributes and makes operative the Karma of all beings up to Brahma. At the end of the Cosmic cycle, the whole Universe dissolves into His Prakrti (Nature) and become latent in it. At the beginning of a new cycle it comes out of that nature. The Universe constitutes His body both in the latent and patent conditions. And He has absolute control over it. These activities do not bind Him in any way or at any stage.

His majesty is further declared by an enumeration of His Vibhutis (glorious manifestations) which cover all faculties and entities in the Universe. It is declared that He supports this entire Universe by a fragment of His Being. To those who are steadfast in their devotion to Him, He bestows that illumination of understanding by which they come to Him.

He is not only a God of mystery and majesty, but also a God of love to whom the devotees are very dear. To those who adore Him by an act of supreme


self-surrender, He is like a loving father forgiving all their short comings. He accepts all worship and grants their fruits. Even those who worship other deities, without knowing that Narayana is the Supreme Being, are, in fact, worshipping Narayana only. His worship is very simple. The sole requisite is devotion. Lord Narayana accepts with joy even a flower, leaf or water from a pure hearted devotee. He says “whatever you do, whatever you eat, whatever you offer in sacrifice, whatever you give in charity, whatever austerity you perform- do that as an offering to Me”. This is real renunciation, Sanyasa, and one who does this is freed from the bonds of Karma. He will attain liberation and go to Him. His grace extends even to sinners and those considered unfit for emancipation. It is declared “Even a confirmed sinner, if he worships Me with unwavering faith and devotion, must indeed be considered righteous, for he has taken the right resolve. Soon he will become righteous and attain to lasting peace. No devotee of mine will ever perish”.

The Gita divides devotees into four classes. (a) Aarta (one seeking relief from misery). (b) Jijnasu (One in quest of Atman). (c) Artharthi (one seeking worldly objects) (d) Jnani (the knowing one. According to Gita all these devotees are generous (Udarah). But Jnani is considered by the Lord as His own Atma (self). Jnani, in fact, has no quest. He feels supreme satisfaction in the realisation of his servant ship (Seshatva) to God. Such a devotee is as dear to the Lord as a calf is to the mother cow. This conception of the Jnani emphasises the inseparable closeness to the Lord but not the oneness of the Jiva with the Lord. The Lord speaks of such devotees as His very self. Lord Narayana is the only means for attaining Him.

Arjuna becomes curious and wanted to experience the Supreme Divine. Lord Krishna grants him the special power to perceive the Cosmic form of the Lord. In that limitless form Arjuna sees the whole Universe with the infinite Prakrti and countless Jivas; he also sees Devas, Asuras, Gandharvas and many others; in addition he sees all that our ordinary understanding reveals as past, present and future; he also sees the battle of Kurukshetra which is yet to be fought and many warriors on both sides rushing headlong into His fearful mouth to meet with destruction. Lord Krishna explains that what Arjuna is seeing is His manifestation as Time, in which all beings are generated, sustained and consumed. Arjuna was made to understand that the fighting and destruction is being done by the Lord Himself and Arjuna’s involvement is only to be a semblance of His instrument in the task. The glory of the Cosmic form fills Arjuna with awe. He prays to Lord Krishna to appear as his usual gentle form. Sri Krishna resuming the gentle form informs Arjuna that the form he has witnessed is very difficult to behold and only those who take refuge in Him with unswerving devotion will be able to know this form in truth.

Chapter-12, which forms the conclusion of the 2nd Hexad begins by a query from Arjuna as to which of the two is a better knower of Yoga –


(a) those who adore you in utter devotion considering you as he supreme end

(b) those who meditate on the Akshara (the indestructible) and Avyakta (the Unclear). In Advaitic interpretation Akshara and Avyakta are interpreted as changeless and formless.

According to Sri Ramanujacharya these word describe Jiva in its pristine nature. The Jiva is further described as Anirdesya (not subject to verbal definition), Sarvatraga (pervading everywhere) and Achintya (not graspable by thought). The Lord gives a clear answer. (a) Both these aspirants ultimately reach the same goal. (b) For an embodied being (one with body consciousness) task of concentration on the real self and feeling that it is his real nature is very difficult (c) Resignation to the Lord is easier and is a direct path. In this case the Lord Himself becomes the redeemer. Sri Ramanujacharya clarifies that success in practices such as Dhyana (meditation or continuous one-pointed thought), Jnana (knowledge of the self) and Abyasa (repeated practice to remember the Lord) can be achieved only after the effects of sinful Karmas have been eliminated. This achievement is possible only through works done as offering to the Lord, without an eye on their fruits. Thus Karma-phala-tyga is the genesis of all spiritual development. For one who has achieved this and having absolute faith and spirit of surrender to the Lord, the pure path of devotion is possible. Such a devotee is not required to follow Jnana Yoga. From the second Hexad we get two views of the Divine nature –

a) Its transcendence (Paratva)

b) Saulabhya (easy accessibility). How are they to be reconciled?

His Paratva comes out from such ideas as – not easily accessible to such divine beings as Lord Brahma and Lord Shiva; manifesting the whole Universe with a fragment of His Being and not affected by it at all; His being the will operating the whole Universe including periodic dissolution into its causal condition and bringing it back to a manifested state etc ; Side by side is depicted His Saulabhya (easy accessibility). Easy accessibility does not mean cheap accessibility. It means He reveals Himself easily to those who yearn for Him and have unswerving devotion to Him. Such a devotee is called a Jnani. Jnani depends on God like a calf does on its mother cow. His Saulabhya is also is also shown during His role as an incarnation. . For the world welfare He is born as a man while still retaining His divinity. Sri Ramanujacharya describes this as Jagad-upakriti-maanusha. His easy accessibility is given with an example. When a lame man wants to mount an elephant, the elephant bends its knees to enable the man mount it. The elephant has not lost its elephantine nature.


Essence of the Third Hexad

This Hexad covers chapters 13 to 18. In this Hexad a more detailed examination on Atman, Prakrti and the Supreme Being takes place. A more detailed examination on how the Gunas of Prakrti bind the Atman is presented. In the 13th chapter Prakrti is demonstrated as the object that is seen (Kshetra or the Field). The Purusha is demonstrated as the Seer (Kshetrajna or the Field-knower). From the 14th chapter to the 17th, the three Gunas – Sattva, Rajas and Tamas and their functioning on all aspects of human life are elaborated. This explains on how Prakrti maintains a hold on the Purusha. Extreme dominance of Tamas generates a demonic nature which leads the soul to “Naraka”, whose three gates are described as – sexuality, anger and greed. The 15th chapter is called as Purushottama Yoga and is a very important chapter. It is clearly pointed out that there are three entities; (1) Kshara (the changeful body-entangled Jiva) (2) Akshara (the changeless Atman, also described as Kutastha (this refers to liberated Jivas taken as a whole and are of uniform nature of bliss-consciousness. They are unaffected by any change like the body-bound souls (Ksharas). (3) Purushottama- the Supreme Being who is above all spirits, both liberated and un-liberated (Kshara and Akshara). He pervades the three worlds and maintains them all by His will. Lord Krishna declares Himself to be that Purushottama, distinct and superior to both Kshara and Akshara.

In the 18th chapter it is maintained that Sanyasa (renunciation) and Tyaga (abandonment) are identical in their real meaning. Krishna gives His view that abandonment of fruits alone is valid. Yet holy acts like worship, charity, austerity and ordained duties should never be given up as they form the means for the purification of the aspirants mind. The four Varnas are explained as character types according to the dominance one or the other of the three Gunas. Duties in life allocated in scriptures to the different character types are meant for their higher evolution. They have to be discharged conscientiously as offering to God. By discharging one’s duties (Svadharma) as worship to the Lord, man obtains greater spiritual competence.

The meditation process for attaining the Brahman to be followed by one who has attained this state of purification is next described. Once Brahman consciousness is attained, devotion of the highest order for the Supreme Person naturally flows from the consciousness of such a devotee. He will then realise who He is and how great He is. Through that Supreme Devotion he enters into Him. It is stressed that it is not knowledge but devotion born out of it is the cause for Mukti. In the succeeding verses, Gita ascends to a crescendo of its teaching. In chapter 18, Verse 66 we come across the well known Charama Sloka, quoted below –

Sarvadharmaan parityajya maam ekam saranam vraja |

Aham thvaa sarva paapebhyo Moksha yishyaami maa sucha: ||


“Completely relinquishing all Dharmas, seek Me alone for refuge, I will relieve you from all sins. Grieve not.” Some clarification is essential here. Relinquishment here does not mean giving up of all devotional duties. In this instance, relinquishing all Dharmas means the complete relinquishment of the sense of agency, possessiveness, fruits in the practice of Karma, Jnana and Bhakti Yogas. It is in realising the Lord as the agent, object of worship, the means and end in the pursuit of Moksha.

Bhakti and Prapatti

In his Gita Bhashya, Sri Ramanujacharya does not clearly state his views on the Prapatti marga. However, his views come out clearly in his Gadya Traya. Bhakti refers to practising love of God, taking in various positive aids in such practice, with the idea that if we take those aids as the means, we can thereby attain Him. Prapatti means the acceptance of one’s utter helplessness to be redeemed by any means that one could adopt, and resigning to the Lord both as the means and end. In the Vaishnava tradition these two are illustrated by what are called Markata Kishora Nyaya and Maarjala Kishora Nyaya. In the Markata Kishora Nyaya a baby monkey holds on tightly to its mother while being transported from place to place. Its safety depends on how tightly it is holding on to the mother. In the case of Maarjala Kishora Nyaya the mother cat carries the baby without any effort from the baby. The case of Prapatti marga is similar to the Maarjala Kishora Nyaya. The devotee’s absolute resignation to the Lord makes the Lord both the means and end.

Other than this, there are other distinctions, in terms of form and requirements, between the Bhakti marga and the Prapatti marga. The Bhakti marga described by Sri Ramanujacharya is open only to those who are eligible for the Upanishadic way of Upasana. Performance of ritualistic works prescribed for the twice-born classes along with Jnana Yoga (meditation on the difference between Atman and body-mind) is essential. Only when this Jnana Yoga is practiced will the Karma Yoga be really detached. Both these disciplines require the study of Vedas and Upanishads. Study of Vedas and Upanishads is open only to the twice born. This would mean the practice of these two disciplines is restricted to the twice born classes. Bhakti is the end product of the practice of Jnana and Karma Yogas. From this it is seen that the competence of the Bhakti Yoga is restricted to a small section of the people.

Does that mean there is no way for the liberation for the vast majority of people? Yes there is. It consists in Prapatti, the absolute surrender to the Lord that we talked about. This marga requires no Vedic studies, rituals or Upanishadic meditation. Absolute faith and trust in God is adequate. Thus the Lord is made both as the means and the end. Gita has many passages which yield this meaning. Refer to chapter 32, verse 9. Lord Krishna says “By taking


refuge in Me even men of evil birth, women, Vaisyas and also Sudras attain the Supreme state”. The classes referred to are not eligible for Vedic Upasanas and for that reason excluded from Bhakti marga.

If these verses are taken together it will be evident that Gita does not insist for redemption on Vedic Upasana or ritualism. Sharanagati to the Lord alone is adequate.

Other Geetas

There are a number of other Gitas

“Gita means a song. There are several other Gitas in Hindu Scriptures in addition to the Bhagavad Gita. However, Bhagavad Gita is the most popular and well known one

Following are some –

(1) Anu gita

(2) Ashtavakra gita( teaches sanyasa) (3) Avadhoota gita (teaches sanyasa) (4) Bhikshu gita

(5) Bhramara gita (Bhagavatam)

(6) Bodhya gita

(7) Brahma gita I (skandha purana)

(8) Brahma gita II(Yoga vasishta)

(9) Devi gita

(10) Ganesha gita (Ganesha purana)

(11) Gopika gita (Bhagavatam) (12) Guru gita (13) Hamsa gita

(11) Gopika gita (Bhagavatam)

(12) Guru gita

(13) Hamsa gita

(14) Hanumad gita

(15) Harita gita

(16) Iswara gita (Kurma purana)

(17) Kapila gita(reg Hatha yoga)

(18) Manki gita

(19) Parashara gita (20) Pingala gita

(21) Rama gita (adhyatma Ramayana) (22) Ribhu gita

(23) Rudra gita

(24) Sampaka gita

(25) Siva gita

(26) Sriti gita (Bhagavatam)

(27) Surya gita (teaches visista advaita)

(28) Suta gita (skandha purana)

(29) Uddhava gita

(30) Uttara gita(teaches sanyasa)

(31) Vasishta gita

(32) Vibhishana gita (33) Vicakhyu gita

(34) Vritra gita

(35) Vyasa gita (Kurma purana)

(36) Yama gita ( Nrsimha purana)

(37) Yama gita (Agni purana)

(38) Yama gita (Vishnu purana)

Yoga Vasishta

Yoga Vasishta is one of the revered spiritual texts like the Bhagavad Gita. It was written by the celebrated Maharshi Valmiki. It is one of the longest texts


in Sanskrit after the Mahabharata. It consists of 32,000 shlokas including numerous short stories and anecdotes to illustrate its contents.

Prince Rama returns from touring the country. He returns in an utterly disillusioned mood. King Dasaratha expresses concern to Brahmarishi Vasishta. The sage begins his discourse to Rama. This discourse comes out as Yoga Vasishta. Yoga Vasishta is divided into six parts –

1.Dis-passion 2.Qualification of the seeker 3.Creation


5.Dissolution and 6.Liberation.

Brahmarishi Vasishta is one of the Saptarishis. He is the Manasa putra of God Brahma. Arundhathi is the wife of the sage. Apart from the monumental Yoga Vasishta, he has written another treatise on astrology by the name “Vasishta Samhita”.

Brahmarishi had an ashram in Ayodhya spread over 40 acres. Today all that remains is a small ashram in about one fourth of an acre. The ashram has within it a well that is believed to be source of river Sarayu. Many spiritual minded people visit this ashram and find enormous spiritual energy around this well.


Does God exist?

Chapter VII – Miscellaneous

Most of the people worship God, and nearly all of us do pray to Him at some point in life or other. The Hindu system does not insist that we should pray a certain number of times per day or month. Nor does it insist that we should go to the temple a certain number of times. In fact, it does recognize that we are involved in Samsara and this calls for our active involvement in duties other than praying.

Keeping this in mind, as Hindus, we can offer our prayer in simple words or in more elaborate ritualistic manner. We can offer our prayers from home as well. Prayer can be offered in any one of the three different forms – (a) Kaayika (physical) (b) Vachika (oral) (c) Maanasa (mental).

According to the Bhagavata Purana, the practice of devotion could take nine different forms. They are – (1) Hearing about God (Kaayika) (2) Singing about His greatness (Vachika) (3) Remembering Him (Maanasa) (4) Serving Him through the service of all beings as His embodiments (Kaayika, Vachika, Maanasa) (5) Worshipping Him in Holy images (Kaayika, Vachika), (6) Paying obeisance to Him (Kaayika, Vachika, Maanasa) (7) Practicing the attitude of a servant towards Him (Kaayika, Vachika, Maanasa) (8) Cultivating loving intimacy with Him (Maanasa) (8) Surrendering one’s, body, mind and soul to Him (Kaayika, Vachika, Maanasa).

Yet, with all this, under severe stress, with nowhere to go, and in sheer desperation we get a fundamental doubt – Does God exist? Does He exist at all anywhere or are we accepting this blindly? We feel guilty when this thought arises. But there are a number of others – atheists, agnostics and others who will raise this question anyway.

This is not a question that has been raised just today. It has been raised by a number of people at different times. You just have to read the Puranas. Also, this is not a problem faced by the Hindu religion only. Other religions have also been facing this question. A number of books have, in fact, been written on this subject. The matter has now been thoroughly complicated and confused. At times, one wonders, whether the question is being raised purely with a spirit of enquiry.

Vedas are the Holy Scriptures and authoritative texts for the Hindu religion. How does our traditional Vedic system approach this question?

Before trying to answer, one has to understand what the definition or Lakshana of God is. Never give a proof or evidence of existence or otherwise


before clearly defining what you are after. What do you mean by the word God? After knowing exactly what we are looking for, we will be in a better position to answer the question. If not, it will lead to a greater confusion. Each one of us have our own concept of God and to answer the question we have to know what the concept of God is.

Vedas have a very clear definition of God and there is no ambiguity there. The Lakshanas of God is – Chaitanya Swaroopa; Jnaana Swaroopa; Prajnaana Swaroopa; Vignaana Swaroopa; Chidroopa.

Chaitanya, in English, is referred to as Consciousness. And what is Consciousness? This is also defined in our scriptures. Consciousness is that principle because of which we are aware of everything around us. That Consciousness is God. It is awareness. So the question of “Does God exist” may now be rephrased as “Does Consciousness exist?” All our experiences in this world are due to our consciousness. In other words, the world of experience of ours is the result of our consciousness. Every experience of life or every activity of life is possible because we are endowed with consciousness.

Lord Krishna in Bhagavad Gita says

Utkraamantam sthitam vaa api bhunjanam vaa gunanvitam vimudhaa na anupashyanti pashyaanti Jnaana cakshusah (15-10)

Meaning –

“The deluded are those who misconceive the body as the Atman. They are incapable of discriminating between the two. They can not see the Atman either while it is residing in the body or when it is leaving it. However, those who possess the eye of knowledge perceive the self as being different in all conditions”.

If consciousness refers to awareness, then the question of “Does consciousness exist?” may be rephrased as “Are you aware of everything around you?”. Is there anyone in this room who is not aware of things around him? We are all conscious beings and are aware of everything around us. So the existence of God is proven. We are in the proximity of God all the time.

The next question that might arise is – what is the nature of this consciousness? What is His Swaroopa? Science has not been able to come up with an answer. It is not a material, physical, chemical or a biological principle. Nor is it a neurological principle. Science does not have an answer to the question of – what is the nature of consciousness. However, our scriptures have an answer.

Lord Krishna says –


Yasmaat ksaram ateeto ham aksaraad api chottamah ato’ smi loke vede cha prathitah purushottamah(15-18)


As I transcend the perishable and am also superior to the imperishable. I am well known as the Purushottama (the Supreme Being) in both Vedic and secular literature.

In Kathopanishad, one of the major Upanishads, we find Yamadharmaraja enlightening his pupil, Nachiketa, on the nature of God. He says –

“He, who has known, that (i.e. Atman) which is without sound (Asabdam), without touch (Asparsam), without form (Aroopam), without taste (Arasam), eternal and without smell (Agandhavat), without beginning or end, beyond the great (Mahat) and unchanging, is freed from the jaws of death”Chapter 1, Valli 3, 15

Yamadharmaraja further proceeds to describe Brahman to his student as follows –

Yena roopam rasam gandham shabdaan sparscha maithunaan Yete naiva vijanaati kimatra parishishyate yetuth vai thatu –

Chapter 2, Valli 1, 3

“The Brahman is at the back of all sense perceptions (form, taste, smell,

sound, touch and sexual pleasure) mind and intellect.”

The God or consciousness is a non- material and non-energy principle. This non- material principle is beyond all the laws that govern the matter. In addition, all the objects in this world, big and small, living or non-living, are governed by “Time and Space”. But this Chaitanya, which is God, is not governed even by Time or Space. Therefore the scriptures use the word Ananta Chaitanya with reference God. Hence, in answer to the question on the form of God, it is said Ananta Asanga Chaitanya Swaroopa”

This Asanga, Ananta Chaitanya which is a non material principle and which is in every one of us is God. This visible body of ours, including all its internal parts like hands, legs, brain etc are all activated by the invisible Chaitanya, which is God.

How old are the Vedas?

Indus Valley Civilization, Aryan Invasion of India and other stories


The Vedic culture has been pervading the Indian subcontinent for thousands of years. The antiquity and continuity of this culture can be seen from the


recordings in the oldest annals of mankind – the Vedas. One naturally wonders – how old are the Vedas? The study of history is important. The antiquity of a culture’s history and the achievements of its people provide the nation with an identity and a sense of self esteem.

While the chronological establishment of Indian history is important, political considerations in India took precedence when its rulers discovered that carefully implanted distortions would serve them well in subjugating the proud Indian race. Western indologists misrepresented the historical data available and put forth theories based merely on speculation and pre-conceived beliefs. This served a social and political purpose of domination, proving the superiority of western culture and religion. At the same time, the Hindus were made to feel that their culture is not the great thing their ancestors had said it was. In fact, some of the Indians felt ashamed of their culture, that its basis is neither historical nor scientific. As a result, they started believing that the main line of civilization was first developed in the Middle East, and then in Europe. The thought has grown that the Indian culture is peripheral and secondary to that developed elsewhere. Western Vedic scholars participated in the carefully orchestrated strategy of discredit, divide and conquer the Hindus.

As a result, the compelling reasons for the Aryan Invasion theory were neither literary nor archeological but political and religious. This is all history. More relevant is what the Hindu scholars and Archeologists are doing about it. If they accept the misrepresentations of their own culture silently and passively, the state of affairs will continue and they will have no one to blame except themselves. One has to feel that misrepresentations of their culture are not a matter to be taken lightly. A number of Hindus read and accept whatever that was written by the scholars like Max Muller, Monier Williams and others. It is about time that Hindu scholars carefully study the information and evidence available and try to establish the dating of the Vedas.


According to currently established chronology, it all started with the invasion of a so called Aryan Race around 1500 B.C. The invaders, described to be light skinned tribes from central Asia, ruthlessly and forcefully subdued the original inhabitants, dark skinned Dravidian of the land. They proceeded to impose on the locals an alien language and culture. The invading hordes settled down on the banks of river Sindhu (Indus) and within few centuries (1200 B.C) compiled the Vedas. Subsequently the Brahmanas, Samhitas, Puranas and numerous other scriptures were composed. The inference is that the text of the Rig Veda was composed by them during the early stages of their presence in India, when they were still busy invading, conquering and establishing settlements all over the Punjab and the northwest, later to spread out all over northern India. .Where does the Ramayana and the Mahabharata


fit in? A probable date of 1000B.C to 300 B.C was allocated. This so called pre-Aryan civilization is said to be evidenced by the large urban ruins of what has since been called as “Indus Valley Civilization” The ruins of this early Indus Valley Civilization dated 3000 BCE are at Harappa and Mohenjodaro. A British archaeologist Wheeler was supposed to have been the first who forwarded the Aryan Invasion theory. Suggestions then existed which indicated that the Vedas were indeed composed by tribes, the so called Aryans, outside of India!! They then brought the Vedas to India.

Invasion Theory

The date of invasion is quoted as 1500 B.C. How was this date arrived at? Well known scholars of the nineteenth century believed in Biblical chronology. According to this the date of creation of Earth is widely supported as 4000 B.C. The flood was dated around 2500 BC. Keeping these two dates the date for the Aryan Invasion was speculated at 1500 BC. Since the Indus valley culture was earlier than this, they concluded that it had to pre-Aryan. Western Indologists also made questionable interpretation of the Rig Veda, ignoring the sophisticated culture presented within it. In the end, the Vedic culture was said to be that of the primitive nomads who came out of central Asia. The hypothesis of an Aryan invasion was based the conflicts between the light skinned Aryans and the dark race of “Dasyus” described in the Vedic literature. This aspect is said to have been reinforced by the skeletal findings in the excavated sites in the Indus valley. Let us now examine how the facts line up.

Facts vs Speculations Literary Evidence

For the Indo-Aryan invasion of India no direct evidence is available. Indian Vedic scholars like Sri Dayanand Saraswati and Sri Bala Gangadhar Tilak rejected the Aryan Invasion theory based on literary analysis. If the invasion theory is correct, then it would call for concrete evidence regarding

a) b) c) d)


Foreign lands

Migration from foreign lands to India

References to non-Aryan aboriginal inhabitants

References to conflicts between the so called Aryan invaders and non-Aryan aboriginals

A thorough examination by scholars like Shrikant G. Talageri revealed that the Rig Veda itself does not contain one single reference which provides the actual evidence in respect of any of the four points mentioned above. All conclusions have been arrived at based on inferential speculation. Not a


single reference suggesting that an invasion occurred appears in the 10552 verses of the Rig Veda. Also the Rig Veda does not contain any reference to any foreign place west of Afghanistan from where these invaders were supposed to have come. Once again the Rig Veda contains no reference to people speaking non-Indo-European languages – which is what non-Aryan basically means.

Ambedkar arrives at the following conclusions,

1) The Vedas do not know of any such race as the Aryan race.

2) There is no evidence in the Vedas of any invasion of India by the Aryan race and its having conquered the Dasas and Dasyus supposed to be the natives of India.

3) There is no evidence to show that the distinction between Aryans, Dasas and Dasyus was a racial distinction.

4) The Vedas do not support the contention that the Aryans were different in color from the Dasas and Dasyus.

Scientific Verification

A number of statements and materials presented in ancient Vedic literature can be shown to agree with modern scientific findings. A number of archaeological findings and their analysis have brought the Aryan invasion theory in serious doubt. In fact the Aryan invasion theory, as it is presented, raises a paradox. On the one hand we have a vast Vedic literature without any archaeological findings associated with them. And on the other hand we have 2500 archaeological sites from Indus- Sarasvata civilization without any literature associated with them. As evidence started pouring in, it became more evident that the two cultures (that of the invader and the invaded) are one and the same. The paradox, then, ceases to exist.

Sarasvati Factor

The largest concentration of Vedic culture appears in an area of Punjab and Rajasthan near the dry banks of ancient Saraswati and Drishadvati rivers. The Vedic culture was said to have been founded between the banks of these two rivers. The mighty river Saraswati was lauded as the main river in the Vedas. Vedic people were fully acquainted with this river and revered it. It was one of the largest rivers then. However, the river Saraswati dried up. When did it dry up? Several independent studies indicate the period to be 1900 B.C.E. What sort of studies was conducted? Using modern scientific methods, such as satellite imagery and dating techniques, it can be shown that the ancient statements of the Vedas are factual, not mythical as erroneously propagated. High resolution satellite images have verified descriptions in The Rig Veda of the descent of the ancient Saraswati River from its source in the Himalayas to the Arabian Sea. The Saraswati River and its civilization are referred to in the


Rig Veda more than fifty times, proving that the drying up of the Saraswati River was subsequent to the origin of the Rig Veda, pushing this date of origin back into antiquity, casting further doubt on the imaginary date for the so- called Aryan Invasion. The significance of this date is that the composition of the Rig Veda must be well before that.

Evidence of port city Dwaraka

Marine archeology has been utilized off the coast of Gujarat to discover the ancient port city of Dwaraka. Marine archaeological findings seem to corroborate descriptions in the Mahabharata of Dwaraka as a large, well- fortified and prosperous port city, which was built on land reclaimed from the sea, and later taken back by the sea.

Apart from Dwaraka, more than thirty-five sites in North India have yielded archaeological evidence and have been identified as ancient cities described in the Mahabharata. Similarly, in Kurukshetra, the scene of the great Mahabharata war, Iron arrows and spearheads have been excavated and dated by thermoluminence to 2,800 B.C.E., the approximate date of the war given within the Mahabharata itself.

Astronomical Dating of Vedas

Examination of the Rig Veda, Puraanas provide dates of events that took place thousands of years back. Since these dates contradicted the prevalent views of European historians, the Sanskrit texts were academically attacked with a view to disprove the authenticity of the contents. Max Muller, tried to interpret the astronomical evidences as imaginary,”pious frauds” created by cunning Brahmanas. Numerous references were considered as unauthentic and unreliable.

Let us examine how this dating is done. There are 4 Special days in a Tropical Year

(a) Winter Solstice (Starting of Uttarayan); (b) Spring Equinox (Ugadi);

(c) Summer Solstice (Starting of Dakshinayanam); (d) Autumn Equinox.

The Earth takes 365.25 days to cover one full orbit around the Sun. And that is 360 degrees. In one day the Earth covers 0.9856 degrees. This is referred to as the tropical Year.

A sidereal year is the time taken by the Earth to orbit the Sun once with respect to the fixed stars.. Hence it is also the time taken for the Sun to return


to the same position with respect to the fixed stars after apparently traveling once around the elliptic. It was equal to 365.256363004 days at noon 1 January 2000. One sidereal year is roughly equal to 1 + 1/26000 or 1.0000385 tropical years.

The difference is caused by the precession of the equinoxes (meaning that the Earth wobbles on its axis). The effect of this is- that roughly for every 60 tropical years we will fall short of the sidereal year by 1 degree. More exactly for every 71.6 years we are short of the sidereal year by one degree. In India we follow a 60 year cycle and each year has a name (Prabhava to Akshaya). So, once in every (71.6* 360), which equals 25,776 tropical years we are short by 360 degrees or one full cycle. In addition the Sun takes 960 years (say 1000 years) to step through a Nakshatra. In very rough terms, an equinox or solstice will occur at immediately the previous Nakshatra in about 1000 years later. And we have 27 Nakshatras in the Hindu calendar.

As an example (Ref “Dating of Ramayana and Vedas by Dr. P.V. Vartak”). , in the year 1998 A.D the Sun at the summer Solstice (21st June) is in Aardra. During the time of Ramayana, it was in Swaati. The precession has an anti- clockwise direction. So we have to count in reverse direction from mid Swaati 195” to Aardra 65.5”. It comes to 129.5”. Taking the rate of precession at 71.6 years per degree we have (129.5 * 71.6) = 9272.2 or 9272 years. Subtracting 1998, we get 7274 B.C years as the date of Ramayana.

A number of modern day scholars have done work on astronomical dating of Puranas and Vedas. Dr. P.V. Vartak has written an excellent book titled “Scientific Dating of Ramayana and Vedas”. It is recommended for reading.

In conclusion, it has been believed that there is no evidence to determine the dates of events in the Vedic / Ramayanic era. Some historians of the past even refuse to acknowledge that Rama and other characters from the Ramayana even existed. However, more evidence is coming to light to indicate dates for various events and for the Vedas as well. To decipher the astronomical encoding has not been a trivial task, and not many have attempted to do so. It should be noted that the ancient Indians had a prefect method of time measurement.


Dates in Ramayana as Calculated by Dr. P.V. Vartak



Hindu Calender

Rama’s Birth

Tuesday, 4th Dec 7323 B.C

Uttaraashadha Chaitra Suddha 9th Punarvasu

Bharata’s Birth

Wednesday, 5th Dec 7323 B.C

Chaitra Suddha 10th Pushya

Lakshmana & Shatrugna’s Birth

Thursday, 6th Dec 7323 B.C

Chaitra Suddha 11th Aslesha


Friday, 7th April 7307 B.C

Bhaadradpada Suddha 3, U. Phalguni

Exile to Forest

Thursday, 29th Nov 7306 B.C

Chaitra Suddha 9th, Pushya

Dasharatha dies

Wednesday, 5th Dec 7306 B.C

Chaitra Pournami

Ravana’s death

Sunday, 15th 7292 B.C

Phalguni, Amavasya

Rama’s return to Bharadwaja’s Ashram

Saturday, 5th Dec 7292 B.C

Chaitra Vadya, 5th

Rama’s entry in Ayodhya

Sunday, 6th Dec 7292 B.C

Chaitra Vadya, 6th

Veda / Upanishad

Approx Date

Rig Veda

23920 B.C

Taittiriya Braahmana

8000 B.C to 4650 B.C


5480 B.C


5761 B.C


5480 B.C

Vishnu Purana

1906 B.C

Maitraayaniya Upanishad

1909 B.C

Kausitaki Brahmana

2320 B.C

Susruta Samhita

1710 B.C

Matsya Purana

2000 to 1600 B.C

Chankya lived

370 B.C and 283 B.C

Kalidasa lived

About 500 CE

Varaha Mihira lived

About 520 A.D


What is Shraddha ?

It is a very subtle qualification and is often misunderstood; it is commonly translated as Faith or belief. This translation has created a lot of confusion and problems. In the modern concept Faith is invariably associated with superstition – blind belief, without any enquiry. It has become a demarcatory word between religion and science. Faith is generally associated with religion and is regarded as a “friend” of religion. Faith is regarded as an enemy of science – because you believe it without conducting any enquiry. In this


situation where Religion considers Faith as a friend & Science considers Faith as an enemy. So we are landed with a view that Religion and Science are enemies!!

The scientists say that in Faith you accept things. This means you accept things without enquiry. Where ever there is faith, there is no enquiry -there is no questioning. However, science is based on questioning or enquiry. In other words, Science depends on enquiry for progress. When enquiry stops – progress of science also stops. Since the view of science is that Faith accepts things without questioning, it is stopping the progress of science. So wherever there is faith, science is not possible. When there is no science there is no progress. On this basis it is viewed that Faith belongs to the stone ages & Science belongs to the age of enlightenment. Many people are afraid now to say that they are religious – because they fear they may be considered as belonging to the dark ages. At the same time they want to pose as scientists, as rationalists; pose that they do not take anything lying down but have spirit of enquiry, have a spirit of questioning. So people want to avoid the word Shraddha & keep away from it.

Is that the truth? We will now examine.

First, the traditional word Shraddha cannot be translated as faith at all. There is no English equivalent for Shraddha at all. Let us look at it in another way. What actually does the word Shraddha refer to? Shraddha refers to a unique form of knowledge which is arrived at after a very subtle form of enquiry. What is the subtle form then? It is a form of enquiry which is rarely, if at all, employed these days. And this subtle form of enquiry is not just today’s evolution. Our sages have been using this form of enquiry for 1000s of years. This form of enquiry was being used by them to gain special knowledge of important things.

What is that enquiry? It asks the most fundamental question? And what is that question? The question is, let us say –“Is there a world existing in front of you?”. Yes, that is the question. If I say that it is existing –then a next question comes up. And that is “how do I know it is a fact and not a fiction? Have you seen anyone conducting this type of enquiry? Most people do not make this enquiry? Even modern scientists do not make this enquiry but take it for granted or accept it. In such a case, our seers would call these modern people as superstitious.

Our seers have raised this question and arrived at a very important knowledge. They accept that the world exists and they also accept that the world is a fact because it is revealed by our sense organs. The world revealed by the sense organs is taken as a fact, because we consider the sense organs as valid sources of knowledge. Then another question comes up –


how do you know that the sense organs are valid sources of knowledge? Sense organs are valid sources of knowledge because they are the primary sources of knowledge. The next question then is -why do we say primary sources of knowledge are valid. The answer is – validity or correctness is inbuilt in every primary source of knowledge. Therefore, validity or trustworthiness is the intrinsic nature of every primary source of knowledge. As you notice, we have arrived at this answer by a series of queries or questions. Validity is inbuilt in every primary source of knowledge.

In Sanskrit, validity inbuilt is called “Swatah pramaanya”.

This understanding or knowledge you arrive at is then called “Swatah pramaanya jnanam”. This understanding “Swatah pramaanya jnanam” is called Shraddha. So Shraddha has nothing to do with superstition at all. We have 5 sense organs or primary sources of knowledge. Each one is independent. The primary source of knowledge in our tradition is called “Upa Jeevya Pramanam”. Jnanam of swathah pramanyam of an upajeeya pramanam is called Shraddha. Whatever is revealed by a sense organ is an ultimate fact. Science also says this. We are not questioning an existing world because it is an “Upa Jeevya Pramanam”. So Sraddha is not superstition, it is not belief, it is not against enquiry; it is a knowledge borne out of a deep & fundamental enquiry. Then how can Shraddha be an enemy of enquiry? In fact, it promotes enquiry. In our tradition, we have thousands and thousands of books of enquiry – Siddhi grandhas, Vichara grandhas. In fact, all our tradition is based on dialogue- not monologue. It is not as if – I say so and you better listen. The teacher promotes enquiry. The person who does not have Shraddha has not made a fundamental enquiry and has taken things for granted & and such a person is superstitious. It is a knowledge that is essential before you start studying the scriptures.

We have 5 Primary sense organs and every sense organ reveals a unique fact. We then have 5 primary sources of knowledge. The knowledge revealed by each sense organ is valid by itself. No other source is required for validation. The ears have no right to challenge the knowledge revealed by eyes. We do not say “I believe” the ship is green. We just say ‘ship is green”.

If you are interested we can offer one more primary source of knowledge – Upajeevya pramanyam. Take it only if you are prepared to use it as a primary source of knowledge. If you do so, it will expand your field of knowledge. And that is the Vedas. They are a blessing given to us by our seers. Use it as the sixth primary source of knowledge. Veda is an Upajeevya pramanam.

One primary source of knowledge will not obstruct a second one. It will not hurt the knowledge gained through the others. Every primary source of


knowledge will expand your horizon of understanding – provided you treat it as a primary source of knowledge. If you have Shraddha, we are prepared to offer Veda as a primary source of knowledge. Our scriptures refer to Veda as Pratyaksha – to indicate that Veda is a Primary sense organ. Vedas as you all know are called Shrutis – revealed to our ancient highly respected seers. These seers are a few and selected ones and do not suffer from any physical disability. They are also totally unbiased. So we can rely on what they communicated to us. This method is used even today– though in a different field – in legal cases. We take the words of the witnesses as true. The opposition tries to make the witness look unreliable. The accused is also put to death on the basis of witness produced. If someone says he does not want to use the Vedas as the primary source of knowledge his horizon is limited. The choice is his. This does not mean that we disrespect or disregard other religions. Mahatma Gandhi said it best –

“The truest test of civilisation, culture and dignity is character and not clothing. My religion forbids me to belittle or disregard other cultures, as it insists under pain of civil suicide upon imbibing and living my own.” – Mahatma Gandhi


Planet earth where we all live is a wonderful place. Apart from being the abode for millions of living beings, it is also a storehouse for a whole lot of energy sources. No one can say for certainty that we know each and every one of the energy sources.

Human beings have been trying for many years to gain control of the energy sources and then put them to use. Work done towards this is in the realm of scientists and engineers. Some are put for good causes and some others for disastrous causes.

Much before the modern day scientists appeared on the scene, the Rishis from India have also been trying to find ways and means to identify, access, and put to use energies or Shaktis available in abundance in the Universe. For this reason they could be referred to as seer scientists. There is one basic difference though. Whereas the modern day scientists relied on machines and computers for their research work, the tools the seer scientists employed to gain control have been vastly different. Spiritual powers and Mantra Shakti were predominantly the tools they used.

This difference in approach directly results in differences in their outcome. The work of the modern day scientist, being the result of human endeavor can not escape attendant shortcomings such as inadequate design, bugs etc. Resulting failures may lead to disastrous consequences. On the other hand, the work done by the Rishis is carried out at the super-physical levels. One


should not imagine that work done at super-physical levels is haphazard and unpredictable. Law reigns supreme in every sphere – physical or super- physical. So the work done by the Rishis conforms to and is governed by the laws of nature. One good thing about the laws of nature is that all processes eventually revert to equilibrium or a stable position. And this safeguard always ensures that things do not get out of control. Otherwise the Universe would not have survived for so many years.

While trying to understand the work done thousands of years back by the Rishis, we will first deal with Shaktis in general and then follow it up with the means used to access them.

At the start of creation when manifestation took place, the primary differentiation is into Consciousness and Power (Shakti). This Shakti, in turn, differentiates further into innumerable powers corresponding to the multifarious functions which have to be performed in a manifested universe. Each power or Shakti is matched by a corresponding function of consciousness. These Shaktis and associated consciousnesses are the Devis and Devatas of Hinduism. Each function and power is given a particular name and form. On further investigation the seer scientists found out that each Devata is the presiding deity for a particular combination of sounds. This combination of sounds is called a mantra. For each Devata there is a specific mantra. When mantra Shakti is awakened by Sadhana, the presiding Devata responds.

Now what is a mantra and how are they constructed and who is eligible to construct them?

Mantra is composed of certain letters arranged in a definite sequence of sound of which the letters are the representative signs. Mantra must be intoned in the proper way according to Svara (rhythm) and Varna (sound). Bija–Akshara is a seed letter. It is a very powerful mantra. All Devatas have their own Bija-Akshara. Generally, the Bija-Mantra consists of a single letter. Sometimes it constitutes of several syllables. Though the Bija-Mantras have a significant inner meaning, they may not convey any on their face. The form of the Bija-Mantra is the form of the Devata signified by it. Examples of some Bija-Mantras are given below.

Five Mahabhutas (Ether, Air, Fire, Water and Earth)Ham, Lam

Parabrahman Aum

Shiva Haum

Mahalakshmi Shreem Saraswati Aim Ganesha Gam

Yam, Ram, Vam,


The basic principle underlying a mantra is that this Universe of ours is made up of different kinds of vibrations and energies working at different planes. We are familiar with the vibrations and energies that we experience in our every day lives at the physical plane – for example light, sound. However, the ancient Rishis have identified presence of vibrations and energies at the super-physical levels. They have also discovered that thoughts, emotions and even subtler worlds (sookshma lokas), to which reference is made frequently in our religious literature, are based on vibrations and energy plays. Further investigation by the Rishis revealed that not only all manifested worlds are based on various kinds of vibrations and energies but all these vibrations, in turn, are connected with one another and can be traced to one fundamental all embracing vibration. This primary vibration is the source of all other vibrations and is called “Naada”. The Ultimate Reality which is responsible for Naada is referred to as Shabda Brahman.

Another fact that has to be understood in the theory of mantra yoga is the existence of a relationship between vibrations, forms and consciousness.

Sounds are vibrations. Vibrations give rise to definite forms. Combination of sounds creates complicated forms. When a tuning fork is kept in touch with a metal plate carrying sand particles, the particles arrange themselves in a particular from. The form is unique to the frequency of the tuning fork. This is an experiment most of us might have conducted at schools. More elaborate experiments have been conducted by scientists to study the relationships between sound and forms. The conclusions are – (1) Sounds produce shapes (2) Particular notes give rise to particular forms (3) If you desire to produce a particular form then you must produce a note of definite frequency.

A particular vibration will keep elements of a form together and the form will fall apart when the vibration ceases. These vibrations need not necessarily take place in the physical plane – but they may take place on different planes depending on the nature of the form and the life acting as the soul for it. The repetition of Panchakshara mantra produces the form of Lord Shiva. The repetition of Ashtakshara mantra produces the form of Lord Narayana. The repeated repetition of the mantra produces in the mind, the form of the Devata connected with the mantra. And this form in turn becomes the center of our consciousness.

If vibration is related to both form and consciousness then we can use vibration to do two things – (a) use vibrations to produce different kinds of natural phenomena (b) bring about changes in consciousness.

Tantric literature gives a number of mantras which can be used to bring about some specific desired results. It just utilizes powers hidden in certain combination of sounds to yield the desired results. Mantra Yoga, on the other


hand, utilizes powers hidden in certain combination of sounds for the un- folding human consciousness. Japa, which refers to physical or mental repetition of mantras produces vibrations in different planes and enables the Saadhaka to reach deeper layers of consciousness.

How are mantras constructed? Mantra is essentially a combination of sounds. Sounds can be represented by the alphabets of a language. Hence mantras are constructed by arranging the letters of the alphabet in certain combinations with necessary directions for their exact and correct pronunciation. Obviously, this can only be done by a person who knows the subtler properties of the different sounds. No one can predict the effect produced by a certain combination of sounds without a thorough investigation and experimentation. These experiments have to be performed both on the physical and super physical planes. It is then obvious that only great Rishis who know the effects produced by sounds and their combinations are qualified to construct mantras and pass them on to the Saadhakas for their Japa. The particular Rishi who has discovered or constructed the mantra after the necessary investigation is called the Rishi of that particular mantra. Naturally, the power of the mantra is dependent on the potency of the sound combinations used and the investigations on its pronunciation and effects carried out by the Rishi.

Japa is nothing but the repetition of a mantra. The verbal repetition is called Vaikhari Japa. Repetition in a whisper is called Upamsu Japa. Mental repetition is called Manasika Japa. The Japas have been listed in the increasing order of their potency. There are rules prescribed to be followed during Japa. Strict adherence is called for.

What is the difference between a Mantra and a Prayer? Mantra Shakti depends on the potency of the sound combinations. But prayer, which is an equally powerful tool, depends on the devotion of the Saadhaka. Imagine on what can be achieved by the combination of a mantra and a prayer. Is there one such. Yes there is. Gayatri is a combination of a mantra and a prayer.

Consevation during Vedic times

“……… Such wealth I have seen in this country, such high moral values, people of such calibre, that I do not think we will ever conquer this country, unless we break the very backbone of this nation, which is her spiritual and cultural heritage, and , therefore , I propose that we replace her old and ancient education system, her culture for if the Indians think that all that is foreign and English is good and greater than their own they will loose their self esteem , their native self-culture and they will become what we want them , a truly dominated nation”

Lord McCauley Monday 2nd February 1835


British were not the first to occupy India. The country was occupied, plundered and ruled by a number of conquerors. Each employed their own technique to quickly subjugate the people. Brutal, subtle and psychological methods were employed. The end justified the means.

The prevailing notion is that forestry as a “Science” and “Practice” originated in the Western Europe and further advanced in North America. . However, the truth is – principles of Forest conservation and sustainable management were fully entrenched in “pre-historic” India. Forestry traditions have been documented in religious texts in India for a long time. The Upanishads and Vedas contain several references to directives on the use of resources based on religious teachings and with a deep sense of ethics. The Vedas, Upanishads and Puranas strongly bring home the point that the ultimate responsibility for preserving the Earth’s resources rests on mankind.

Vedas are authoritative documents for the Hindus. Some people think that the Vedas only talk about the Supreme Being and our relationship with Him. That is not exactly the case. Vedas address a variety of subjects – Science, arts, Drama, Medicine, engineering, Love, warfare, economics etc. A section of topics at the end of each Veda (Rig, Yajur, Saama, Adharva) deal with the Supreme Being (Parabrahman) and His relationship with Jeevas and Prakruti (matter). These terminal sections are appropriately called Vedanta (that which comes at the end of Vedas). They are also referred to as Upanishads.

The time line of Vedic civilization which gave rise to these scriptures is thought to be between 8000 to1500 BC.

We will address the current topic in the following sequence. What the Vedic literature aimed at achieving

What the Vedic literature said

Guidelines for Practice

Emperor Ashoka and his pioneering work First “Veterinary hospital” in the world. Participatory Forest management Religion as a tool

Vedic Literature – Aims & Achievements:

a) On conservation, they are aimed at preventing over-exploitation of land, forest and resources to ensure sustainability of resources.

b) Conservation ethics stress the need to harness renewable sources of energy (like solar energy)

c) Refrain from acts that result in the depletion of forests for obtaining firewood.


d) Ecological balance is sought to be derived from an understanding of the interdependence of biotic (dealing with living organisms) and non- biotic (dealing with non living organisms – light etc) components.

e) The religious texts show a lot of importance to vital natural resources such as water, and water resources.

What the Vedic literature said

According to Upanishads, resources must be utilised to create wealth. Excessive exploitation of the Earth must be forbidden. It says:

“Wealth must not be despised – that should be the vow

Wealth must not be wasted – that should be the duty

Wealth must be developed manifold – that should be the determination The Earth should be treated as a wealth by itself “

Taittiriya Upanishad (3/7-9) Isopanishad further goes on to say

“You should nurture yourself

with only that portion of resources

which has been showered upon you.

Must not covet anything more than that, for after all to whom do these natural endowments really belong to?”

Isopanishad Verse-1

Energy and environment

Verses in ancient literature exhibit the importance given to harnessing natural resources.

………..harness all round

the energies held fast by stars

and the earth. Collect all over the nutrition inherent in the tress and make use of all energies available in running waters.

Rig Veda (6/47/27) & Yajur Veda (29/53)

“ …….may we, with the help of bright solar energy

be free from all wrongs committed against the inviolable earth, so that wealth can be produced”

Rig Veda (5/82/6)


Religion and ethics of conservation

During the Vedic period, the importance of maintaining the man-nature balance appears to be the dominant thought in our scriptures. Conservation ethics also places emphasis on the equitable sharing of the benefits of natural resources.

“wealth should be equitably distributed

among all people. And for that matter

one must treat all persons as being the same as one’s own self”

Srimad Bhagavata (7/11/10)

Guidelines for Practice

The Hindu idea is that the whole world is a forest. To keep this world as it is, we have to keep this world forest intact. From this stems the concept of cultural landscapes such as – forests, groves, sacred corridors etc.

1.Vedic traditions affirm that every village will be complete only when certain categories of forest vegetation or trees are preserved in around its territory. Examples are – Mahavan, Shrivan and Tapovan.

2.Mahavan or the great natural forest is, perhaps, equivalent, to “protected areas” of today. It adjoins the village and provides a place where all species can co-exist. If the original forest is cleared, for some reasons, it required that another kind of forest be established in its place.

3.Shrivan (forest of wealth) provides essential goods and services to humans and live stocks. Examples are – fodder, timber, roots, herbs etc. It also maintains soil fertility, air and water quality besides providing shelter.

4.Tapovan is the home for the sages. Being sacred, no animal or tree could be harmed in these forests. It is set aside as a place for the practice of religion.

In the post –Vedic period, this tradition continued; in addition to considering landscapes as valuable and sacred, additional units were added. Examples are – temple forests, monastery forests, sanctified and sacred trees.

Later Vedic periods sought to exemplify the bond between the Indian people and the trees. Varahamihira’s book Brhat Samhita (700 AD) describes the relationships between irrigation tanks and trees. He provided detailed technical instruction on tank construction and prescription on species to be planted on the embankments.


According to him, the banks of the tanks should be shaded (planted) with mixed trees. Arjun, Banyan, Mango, Pipal, Java plum, Ashoka and Mahua have been mentioned.

A number of books have been written. Parashara’s book (400 BC) “Krishi parashara” (agriculture); Kashyapa’s book (800AD) “Kashyapiya Krishisookti” are the notable examples.

Emperor Ashoka and his pioneering work

During Emperor Ashoka’s reign (273-232 BC) planting of medicinal herbs and trees beside shade trees along the roads and fruit plants on the waste lands was mandatory. One of the rock edicts of the emperor issued in 257 BC illustrates this practice. Wherever medical roots or fruits are not available he had them imported and grown.

First “Veterinary hospital” in the world

A landmark development occurred during Emperor Ashoka’s reign. He established hospitals for the medical treatment for humans and animals. Thus the first veterinary hospital in the world was established.

Participatory Forest management

During the Vedic age, each village was responsible through its Panchayat, or a committee of five elders, for maintaining the forests in its territory. Implicit in this is the concept of participatory forest management, which forms the main component of the forest management paradigm today. Also no village would be complete without its woodlands in and around the houses. Every village must have a cluster of five great trees “Panchavati” – symbolizing the five primary elements – Pancha Mahabhootas; Earth, Water, Fire, Air and Ether.

Religion as a tool

Several trees and shrubs were regarded as sacred because of their medicinal qualities as well as their proximity to a deity. Pipal is a very good example. Sometimes threads are tied around certain trees, to seek a boon. Parijatha is considered a divine tree. During Chaturmasya, the four months of rainy season of July to October, it is believed that Gods will rest on the plants and trees. During this period the tress are worshipped and never cut. If cutting is absolutely necessary, it is only done after asking forgiveness by chanting mantras.

Indian religious literature is replete with ideas of forest conservation, utilisation and regeneration.



1. “Nature resource conservation and Environmental management” – Ashish Ghosh

2. “Forestry in Ancient India: Some literary evidences on Productive and Protective aspects – B.M. Kumar

Objects of Human Aspirations (Purusharthas)

Every intelligent man seeks to know 2 things (a) the world around him (b) more about himself. The point is that you cannot understand the world without knowing something about yourself. At the same time you cannot know and understand about yourself excluding the world – you are part of this world. Man has been trying to understand both these. Study of the world has taken the shape of Science. And study to know himself has taken the shape of psychology. Indian thinkers did not separate the goal of life from the view of life. Your view of life matures by what you want to achieve in your life. Your view of life leads you to attain some goals of life.

In Sanskrit, the word Artha has many meanings. In this context, it means “goal”. What is sought after by everyone is called Purushaartha. Purusha in this case does not refer to a male person only. It also refers to females as well. In fact, Purushaartha, here refers to Manushya artha. In essence, we would like to discuss about the goals sought after by all human beings. What about animals and plants? Don’t they have goals? It is true that human beings have a number of features that are also found among the animals. For example – Ahaara (food), Nidra (sleep), bhaya (fear), procreation etc. Yet, they do not possess the rare gifts such as – intellect, far sightedness, planning etc. Intellect or Buddhi is the difference. When a human being does not employ his buddhi – he is equivalent to an animal (buddhya vihina pashubhih samaana). Foresight is power.

Planning for the future is a natural consequence of Buddhi at work. For the improvement of our future, we think and we plan. We plan for both the short term and long term goals to be achieved. These goals are Purushaarthas.

We may have hundreds of goals to be achieved in our lives. All the goals have been classified into 4 categories. They are called “Chaturvidha Purushaarthas”.



So what is the first Purushaartha? It is Artha. This first Purushaartha starts very early in life. This word also has many meanings. In the present context it means “security”. Security for survival. All measures that you take, which will allow you to survive come under this category. For example – Food, Clothing, shelter, health, wealth are all measures taken to provide you “survival”. These measures you take require planning. Planning requires foresight. Foresight is power. You then have secondary levels to provide you more security. Children, Insurances, Pensions etc. At some stage we pass the minimum required levels of Artha for security and start hoarding.


The second Purushaartha is “Kaama”. This refers to comfort. It is not essential as the first Purushaartha. But it is nice to have them and enjoy. Entertainment, comfort etc are all there to provide you pleasure. In fact, it is not money alone that rules the world. Pleasure is a more powerful force than property. Sri Ramakrishna says “ Kamini and Kanchana are the two most powerful forces of ignorance”

All human beings love pleasure. They seek pleasure both immediate and distant. Nature exists to be enjoyed and her capacity to entertain seems to be infinite (Bhuma). It is for this reason it is called Bhumi. In the first Purushaartha we noticed that its usefulness lies in providing security or shelter. In this second Purushaartha, men and women look for its “capacity to entertain”.

In real life pursuit of anything may be done in moderation. Kama, when pursued without limits is dangerously corruptive – except in one case of God- love. The process of turning lust into God-love can be done by one method only – regulating activities according to the limits set by Dharma. That takes us to the next Purushartha – Dharma.


The third Purushaartha is “Dharma”. Human conduct is different from the animals because it knows the difference between right and wrong. Our Rishis have told that man has a duty to natural elements, bhutas, as well as to all other creatures in the world. We are asked to perform yagnas or sacrifices to 5 classes – Bhuta Yagna, Athithi Yagna, pitruyagna and Deva yagna. Dharma is defined as an invisible form of wealth. What do you mean by that? Some people refer to it as “ Good Fortune – Adrishta”. Money, housing etc are visible form of wealth. Dharma is an invisible form of wealth. Even then, this invisible form of health, Dharma, can be acquired by appropriate means. However, for acquisition you have to start working in this


present life. Since it is possible to acquire or achieve it, it is a goal. Dharma contributes in two stages.

(1) In first stage, it contributes to our well being in this very life itself.

(2) Dharma will contribute in our next birth also – especially at the very early stages of our next life.

All of us know that the early stages of our life are not under our control. Parentage, wealth, social surroundings, health are not in control of the child. Dharma performed in this life will give us a good start or advantage in the early stages of our next life. We also hear now that the experiences in the childhood influence our adult lives as well. However, we are not in a position to control our childhood experiences. How my parents will bring me up, what sort of surroundings I will live under, what educational opportunities will be available to me –will not be under my control. The invisible wealth, Dharma that I collected in my previous life will decide my present childhood opportunities and experiences. The childhood experiences will determine my future adult life. So Punya sampaadana is a very important goal. There are a number of ways by which you can earn Dharma Purushaartha – the invisible wealth. The three human goals (Purushaarthas) – Dharma, Artha and Kaama have many things in common. So these 3 put together are referred to as “Preyah”. So Preyah refers to Dharma + Artha + Kaama Purushaarthas. Out of this the Dharma is very powerful. So people refer to the three as – Dharma, Artha and Kaama.


The fourth Purushaartha is Moksha. Now Moksha means freedom from slavery. Slavery from what? It is slavery from the Preyah – the three Purushaarthas. It is an internal freedom. Why do you refer to the 3 Purushaarthas as leading to slavery? Take the case of Artha Purushaartha. When you do not have enough wealth or children you start feeling the lack of it. You start thinking about the “lack” continuously. Eventually, the feeling of lack leads you to have a feeling of emptiness. You cannot get rid of it from your mind. Any kind of feeling a “lack” is a slavery. Any object by virtue, of its absence that can create emptiness is capable of enslaving me. Similarly, when you have too much of it – instead of the lack you start feeling the strain. Too much money, too many houses to manage, too many children etc also puts pressure on you. This pressure you cannot get rid of. Both start preying on your mind. When you examine it you will see continuous thinking of the Preyas lead either to a feeling of vacuum or of strain. And you become a slave of it. So some objects create problems due to their absence. And some other objects create problems due to their presence. There are some objects


that create problems both by their presence and absence. All these will eventually make you a “Daasa” – a slave. Quite often, man is caught up in Samsara – the problems of Artha; the limitless pursuit of Kama and confusion about Dharma drives him to desperation. He may seek to an escape from society and start to retreat to forests and Ashrams. Thus Vairagya becomes the first step towards Moksha. Nivrtti, turning from nature to spiritual nature, only comes to those who have suffered the agonies of life in the fields of Artha, Kama and Dharma. But a renunciation like this provides just a freedom from the obligations of the three Purusharthas. This is not yet absolute freedom. In fact, the next stage is Nirvana. It is attained by right thought and meditation and is helped by – ahimsa, kindliness, purity, and renunciation of the ways of this world. This is also described as Brahmanirvana. At this stage, the individual soul feels one with the Supreme Self. It is referred to as Kaivalya – meaning Freedom from all limitations. What is essential is the quiet surrender (Saranagati) to the Supreme spirit. Moksha is not the result of individual effort alone but a gift from Parabrahman – mere fruits of Karma alone will not lead you Moksha but the grace of the Divine is the deciding factor.


“As is his desire, such is his purpose; as is his purpose, such is the action he performs; what action he performs, that he procures for himself” [Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, IV, 4, 5] .

The concept of Karma is a unique contribution from Hinduism to the world. The concept of Karma, determining the fate of individuals comes originally from the Vedas. The Hindus believe in Karma more than on anything else. So we should know more about Karma.

The two pervasive features of all nature, connection with the past and creation of the future, are present at the human level. The connection with the past at the human stage is denoted by the word Karma in the Hindu systems.

Simply stated – it is cause and effect. Every action – small or big produces results. Karma is the action and Karma-Phala is the fruit. The whole Universe is held together by a number of rules – called Dharma. The action of individuals is called Karma. Each individual acts according to his nature called Swabhava. The Dharma of the Universe provides that certain previous karma must lead to a new karma or results. This chain of karma is called by us as FATE – and every Hindu seeks salvation from it.

According to this concept, the future of an individual depends upon what he does or does not do with his life. In other words previous actions lead to subsequent action – karma and karma phal. The Hindu theory is that thought


and feeling, as well as actual speech or deeds (Manasa, Vaacha and karma) – all form part of the karma and create effects. The chain of Karma, the bondage of works, continues from hour to hour and from birth to birth – which is the Hindu fate and from which the Hindus seek salvation. There are a few things about karma we should know about.

Every action, small or big yields a result

Karma Phal – Two types

Drsya Phal – meaning visible result

Adrsya Phal – meaning invisible result

Types of Karma

Sanchita Karma: It is the sum total of the accumulated Karma of previous lives. It is the burden of your past. This needs to be exhausted at some stage in your spiritual journey

Prarabda Karma: It is that part of the Sanchita Karma which is currently activated in your present life and which influences the course of your present actions. Depending on the nature of your present actions, you are either exhausting it or creating more karmic burden for yourself.

Agami Karma: It is the karma that arises out of your current life activities. You will experience the consequences of it in the coming lives. In fact, it is added to the Sanchita Karma.

Kriyamana Karma: This is the Karma whose consequences will be experienced by you in the near or distant future in your current life.

Sequence of Karma phal

The sequence in which you will experience the Karma phal will not be known to anyone except the Lord. You can not expect to make a donation, go home and look forward to receiving the benefits for the good actions you have done.

Punya Leads to Sukham

Paapa Leads to Dukham


Worthiness of the Karma

The lord is the sole judge of the worthiness of your actions and He will decide the Karma phala.

The whole Universe – the various parts constituting it, the individuals (both human and non-human) is held together by a number of rules of action – called Dharma. The action of the parts and individuals is called Karma. Each individual, be it a man or animal, has a Swabhava or nature according which it acts. But beyond and above all these minor laws is the great dharma of the Universe which provides that certain previous karma or action must lead to certain new karma or results. This is the chain of karma, the bondage of works, which is the Hindu Fate from which the Hindus seek salvation.

From this understanding, Karma is not so much a principle of retribution as one of continuity. Good produces good and evil will produce evil. It emphasizes the importance of right action. The law of Karma is not to be confused with either a hedonistic or judicial theory of rewards. It is just a result for your action. Also, you may notice that the Supreme Being did not initiate the action which has given you this result. It was entirely your decision to take action in the manner you did and you are now reaping the rewards for it.

At the time of death, every individual loses his physical body only. The subtle body, called Self, will continue. Along with the Self is packaged the unrewarded Punyas and Paapas. These Punyas and Paapas have to produce Sukham or Dukhams. So another physical body is required. There can be no interaction with the world without the physical body. And there can be no experience of Sukham or Dukham without interaction. Punarjanma is getting associated with a new physical body. Mind you- the Self is still the old one (Self has not changed but body has changed). While experiencing sukham and dukham in the new body, the individual performs more actions and consequently acquires more Punya and Paapa. Many of these get unrewarded and the individual gets ready for still another new body. This is called the cycle of birth and death – Samsara. God does NOT determine the type of birth and the type of experiences. Both are decided by the Punya and Paapa. When did all this start? From Anaadi-kala. How do you break this cycle? Only Moksha will break this. This is the Law of karma. You have to think about it and understand it. Claiming ignorance will not help. Understanding the law of karma has some advantages.

a) It explains the differences and disparities in living beings. Why are innocent children born handicapped? This is because of – Paapa

b) I can accept my suffering even though I have not done any mistakes in this Janma.


c) I can take charge of my future. My future will depend on my present actions. I understand that (a) the world does not determine my future (b) God does not decide my future. I alone am responsible for my future.

d) The answer to the question – why do evil fellows enjoy and good fellows suffer. The evil fellow is enjoying the punya of their past. The good fellow is suffering due to his past Paapa.

e) Accept suffering as a means of exhausting the Paapa.

f) Science talks about visible physical order. Karma talks about invisible

moral order.

Fate and Fatalism

The average Hindu does believe in Fate. The popular belief is that Lord Brahma, the creator, writes on the forehead of every being before they are sent out into this world. This leads us to think that everything in a man’s life has been predetermined. Nothing is left for the man to do. This is called fatalism.

In ancient India, there were some schools that believed in Fatalism (Niyati or determinism). One such well known sect was known as Ajivaka sect. Gosala was the head of this sect. He lived during the times of Buddha and, in fact, he had many discussions with Buddha. Buddha finally moved away from him. According to Ajivakas, there is no place for free will. All human effort is a waste of time. Every being is subject to fate and had to live accordingly.

Hinduism does not support Fatalism. That means – it does not support the theory that everything is pre-ordained and you have little choice other than follow the plan laid out for you by God. There are a couple reasons for it.

1. If everything is fixed by God and you do not have a choice in acting, then God is responsible for the actions. If you are driving a motor car and all actions are as per your wish, then in case an accident occurs – you are held responsible for it and not the motor car. By the same argument, if everything is preordained, then God becomes responsible for the actions and the Karma will follow Him. But the Supreme Being is above Karma. He is untainted.

2. Every minute a man faces situations that call for his action. The choice of which way to act is his. He has the freewill. He is not dictated by God to act one way or other. He will certainly be conditioned by his own Swabhava. And once he acts, then the karma- phala is also his. He then has no control on the karma-phala. Puranas tell us that Hiranyakashipu, Ravana, Kamsa, Duryodhana all received advice but


they acted out of their own freewill and as per their Swabhava. They

then received their karma-phala.

3. If Maya, Avidya or Prakruti are all very powerful and there is no escape

from them, then salvation will just remain as a dream and bondage of Samsara will be eternal – unless there is something which is Free and far more powerful than any of these. This entity the Hindu teachings find in the Paramaatma. He is Eshwara and without His consent nothing can be done. If Maya is His creation, then He alone can help us overcome it.

4. It is the power of sanction from Him that forms the element of free will in our lives. It is up to the man to either use it ignorantly or knowingly. If used ignorantly it is succumbing to the Maya and Prakruti. If used knowingly, the freedom of the soul becomes one with Sharanagati to the Supreme Being. This is the choice offered to the human soul. It is to be remembered that – God’s love is manifested in and through law.

5. Talking about the element of freewill, the problem of human freedom is confused somewhat by the distinction between the self and the will. The will is only the self on its active side. The freedom of the will really means the freedom of the self. It is determination by the self. However, the range of one’s natural freedom of action is not unlimited. No man has the universal field of possibilities for himself. One other point to be noted is – Our demand for freedom must reckon with a universe that is marked by order and regularity – by the Dharma. Dr. Radhakrishnan gave a beautiful example on this – “Life is like a game of bridge. The cards in the game are given to us. We do not select them. They are traced to past Karma. But we are free to make any call as we think fit and lead any suit. Only we are limited by the rules of the game. We are more free when we start the game than later on when the game has developed and our choices become restricted. But till the very end there is always a choice”. Man can actively mould the future instead of passively suffering the past. The past may become either an opportunity or an obstacle. Everything depends on what we make of it and not what it makes of us.

Factors that interplay with human actions

It is true that for any action to succeed, two factors are needed.

1. Human effort (Manushya Prayatna)

2. Divine sanction (Daiva anukoolyam)

Yes, a man may try – but he may still face forces that oppose the success. Hindu scriptures identify three forces that play a part.


a) Individual actions performed by the person according to his free will (Adhyatmika)

b) Actions by other living beings – be they human or non- human (Adhibhutika). Included in this are actions by other human beings such as – friends, relatives, enemies, strangers, government, plants, animals, insects etc.

c) Intervention by some super natural forces. (Adhidaivika). In this category come – acts of nature, acts of gods, unintended causes etc.

In the case of human beings individual will (Adhyatmika) plays a predominant role followed by extraneous factors (Adhibhutika) and acts of god (Adhidaivika)

All Veda mantras are concluded by uttering Om Shantih, Shantih, Shantih Shanti refers to Peace and tranquility.

During our prayers we conclude them by uttering Om Shantih, Shantih, Shantih

By uttering Shantih three times, we are praying for protection from the actions listed above.


Great souls find profound peace in the consciousness that the stately order of this world, now lovely and luminous, now dark and terrible in which man finds his duty and destiny can not be subdued to known aims. It seems to have a purpose of its own of which we are ignorant.

In our relations with human failures, belief in Karma inclines us to take a sympathetic attitude and develop reverence before the mystery of misfortune. The more understanding we are, the less do we pride ourselves on our superiority. Faith in Karma induces in us the mood for true justice or charity which is the essence of spirituality. We realize how infinitely helpless and frail human beings are. When we look at the warped lives of the poor, we see how much the law of Karma is true. If they are lazy and criminal, let us ask what chance they had of choosing to be different. They are more unfortunate than wicked.


Understanding – I

Any religion that has withstood the test of time for more than 1000 years will have to be recognized as a great religion. Into this category come Christianity, Islam and a few others. Long before them, 3 religions stood the test of time for 1000s of years – Hinduism, Zoroastrianism and Judaism. Nearly all religions try to explain the relationship between man/woman and God; between the known and the unknown and to make the unknown more knowable.

Few years back, nearly everyone knew the basics of our religion. What was common knowledge then has now become exclusive knowledge. Unless we know our system well how can we hope to teach our children?

Vedas or Shrutis as they are often referred to are authoritative documents for the Hindus. As you all know, there are four Vedas – Rig, Yajur, Saama and Adharva. Now, sections that come at the end of each of these Vedas are called Vedantas. They are also popularly known as Upanishads.

Upanishads discuss about Paramaatma, Jeevatma and Prakruti (which are referred to as the three Tattvas.) and their relationship. We shall now try to understand Jeevatma.

The enquiry starts like this.

Who are you?

We can reduce the whole creation into two factors. One is the subject “I”. The other is the object “this”. In Sanskrit these two words are “Aham” for I and “Idam” for this. I am the subject and everything else is the object of my knowledge. I am the subject- Sun is the object of my knowledge. Moon is the object of my knowledge. Stars are the objects of my knowledge. You too are objects of my knowledge. Plants, flowers, animals, men, women, children are all objects of my knowledge. There are many sounds, colours, forms, scenes and all of them will be “objects”. There is only one subject “I” and so many different objects. I may mistake one object with another – but I will never mistake an object for a subject. For example, I have – my wife, my children, my family. They are all very dear to me. But I do not say I am the child. I do not say I am my wife.

It means An object cannot be referred to by the word “I”. It can only be referred to by the word “this”.

I now ask you a question – who are you? Your reply is let us say – I am Desai


Your reply may also be- I am the son of Krishnamoorthy. That means, the “son” reveals the nature of “I. All these answers are related to the physical body of yours.

It is with respect to this physical body alone I have the “I” sense. When someone touches your body, you do not say “my body is touched”. You just say “I am touched”. When the body is walking, I do not say “my body is walking”. I say “I am walking”. If the body is tall, I say “I am tall”. If it is fair “I am fair”. If the body is here, then I am here – it is not that my body is here and I have gone out for a walk. If the body stands, I stand. If the body sits, then I sit. Whatever, the physical body does, I do that. So I am the physical body.

So, the answer to the question of “who are you” should have been “I am the physical body”. Is this a correct conclusion? Let us examine this a little more closely.

Who am I?

When I say “I am tall” – it is because this body of mine is tall and I know it. It is similar to my knowing that the tree is tall. The sky is blue and I know it. That man is fat and I know it. I know about the tree, sky and the fat man – because they are all objects of my knowledge. Similarly, my body is also an object of my knowledge. If my body is an object of my knowledge – then it is surely not “I”. I am mistaking the object (in this case, it is the body) to be the subject

I am not my eyes, my ears

We often say, that I see through my eyes. In the same way when I am blind – I say “I know I am blind”; Since I know about the eyes – I am the knower, I am the seer. Similarly I am not my ears. We also say that I hear through my ears. So I am not my ears. If we think it to be so, once again we are mistaking the object (in this case, it is the eyes or ears) to be the subject.

I am not my mind

All thoughts come from the mind. All conclusions take place in the mind alone. If this is the case – then “I” should be the mind. When my mind is angry, then I am angry. When my mind is cheerful, then I am cheerful. When my mind is quiet, then I am quiet. When my mind is restless, then I am restless.

Wait. Why do you say you are restless when your mind is restless?

When your dog is restless, you do not say you are restless. No, I do not do that.

If that is the case, why do you say you are restless when your mind is restless?

That is because, I know the restless mind. If you know the mind, which is now restless, then you not the mind. You are in fact a witness to the restless mind.


The mind is an object. Once again you are making the mistake of confusing an object to be the subject.

I am not my memory

If you say, I am my memory. That is also not true. If I forget something, I am there to recollect from memory. It is not as if, I have gone with the memory. In fact, I was the one who collected and stored the incidents in my memory. I am the one who know exactly what I had breakfast, what I liked and what I disliked from it. I am the one who is aware of what exactly happened. Therefore my memories can not be me.

I am not my intellect

To say that “I” am a Doctor of medicine, an accountant is not true – because I am aware of it. Again, I am not born as a Doctor or as an accountant. These are skills I gathered as I progressed in life.

I am not ignorance

To say that I am ignorant is also not true. I have the knowledge to know that I do not know. I may not be aware of some of the things in life but I am aware of quite a few other things.

Who am I?

So, I see that I am neither knowledgeable nor ignorant. But who is that “I”, because of which I am aware of every thing. I am aware of my physical body, aware of my sense organs (eyes, ears etc), aware of my ignorance, aware of my knowledge, aware of my emotions, aware of my hunger. I am the subject. I am the awarer – and awareness is there.

Awareness is there when the object is there. When the object is removed, the awareness is still there. Awareness is there whether you are awake or asleep. What are the dimensions of awareness – how big? How tall? Awareness has no dimensions. Awareness has no colour. It has no front or back. In fact, it has no form. All forms are objects of this awareness. In a similar way – the body, the mind, the memories, knowledge, ignorance are all objects of my awareness. The word “I” refers only to the subject – which is awareness, which is consciousness. And Consciousness is called “Cit” in Sanskrit.

In fact, everyone is an awarer. I am an awarer; you are an awarer. Ant is an awarer. Mosquito is an awarer. The tree is an awarer. Knowledge itself may be different – you may know something and I may know some other thing. There could be differences in the sense organs. There could be differences in the body, in the intellect. But there are no differences in the awarer.

Let us take this further.


When the awareness (Cit) blesses the mind, the mind becomes conscious. In the Sun light I see various objects – their size, their form, their colour etc. They all shine because the Sun is shining. In other words, the Sun shines and all others shine after him.

But the Sun shines, because my mind is behind my eyes. The same way, the ears shine only when the mind is behind the ears. The nose shines when the mind is behind the nose. However, nothing illuminates the “I” – the consciousness. It shines of its own accord. A thought comes, a thought goes – but “I” remains shining. Space; I am aware of space. Time; I am aware of time. That means, thoughts, space, time etc may come and go – but I still find myself shining. I, the “Cit” survives time, space etc. It has no beginning and it has no end. That which exists at all times is called “Sat”.

So far, we have understood that “I” (awareness / aham) is “Cit” – consciousness. We have also understood, it has no beginning and no end. For that reason it is “Sat”. “Sat” is “Cit” and “Cit” is “Sat”.

Let us now investigate a little further.

We are going to investigate happiness – Ananda.

The whole world essentially consists of 3 items – Time, place and object.

Is happiness an object? Take a house for example. You feel very happy seeing it. You want to buy it. You check with the owner whether he wants to sell it. Yes, Sir – he wants to sell it and sell it quickly. From the time he bought it, he had misfortune after misfortune. He thinks it is due to the house and wants to get rid of it. So you see, the same house is a source of happiness for you and unhappiness for him. Hence, an object is not the source of happiness.

In the same way, place is not the source of happiness for you. You like Chennai. But another man thinks it is a boring place.

And Time can not be a source of happiness. Have you ever heard a man say that every morning at 5 AM, he feels happy?

The truth is – Happiness is your nature. Ananda is your true nature. You do not say – that is happiness. You always say “I am happy”. Happiness is an NOT an object.

In the same way that I say I am happy, I may also say I am unhappy. Then is “unhappiness” your nature? No. Think carefully. You do not say you are unhappy – but you complain that you are unhappy. You complain when you do not feel your normal self. Happiness is your real nature. Unhappiness is not.


1. So summarizing –

“I” (aham) am “Sat”,” Cit” , “Ananada”. I am Jeevatma.

2. Jeevaisnotthebody.Itisnottheintellect.Itisnotthemind.

3. Ithasnobeginningoranend.Itiseternal.

4. Ithasnoform.Itcannotbeburntordrenchedordestroyed..

5. Jeeva is there in you. It is there in an ant. It is there in a mosquito. Jeeva is the same. So, it has to be infinitesimally small. The Jeeva does not change its size as the body grows nor does it change its size when it enters another body.

6. Jeeva is essentially Happy”. It is his nature. However, due to the load of Karma his happiness is reduced. Once Jeeva gets released from the bondage, he recovers his happiness.

7. The knowledge or “Jnaana” of Jeevatma is infinite. They can perceive and understand everything. However, due to the load of Karma his knowledge is reduced. Once Jeeva gets released from the bondage, he recovers his knowledge.

8. Though the Jeevas possess identical characteristics, the one thing that separates them is the load of Karma.

9. Jeevatmaisalsocalledas“Cit”,Soul,Self,Atma,Chetana.

Sanskrit Nataka


All literature in Sanskrit is classified into two categories – (1) Drishya (2) Shravya. All that can be seen or exhibited falls under the category of Drishya. That which can be heard or recited falls into the category of Shravya. Drama falls into the first category and poetry into the second category. References regarding Sanskrit drama are noted in Pathanjali’s Mahabhyasa, Vatsayana’s Kama sutra, Kautilya’s Artha Shastra and Panini’s Ashtabhyam.

Bharata Muni wrote a treatise on Natya Shastra which laid down the foundation for classical Sanskrit drama. He alludes to the Vedic origin of Sanskrit drama. Indra the king of Devatas requested Lord Brahma, the creator, to make an entertainment accessible to all classes of society. Lord Brahma then composed a Shastra taking dialogue from Rig Veda, music from Sama Veda, the art of representation and imitation from Yajur Veda and sentiments from Atharva Veda. This Natya Shastra was revealed to Bharata muni, who with his hundred sons brought it to earth. Bharata muni was said to have been a contemporary of Sage Vyasa who wrote the epic Maha


Bharata. Natya Shastra appears to have been meant for theater practitioners. One important aspect about Sanskrit drama is that it is well codified and conventional.

Sanskrit drama is a combination of music, dialogue, gesticulation and imitation.

Once again we come across the argument that Indian dramas were influenced by Greek drama. Their arguments are based on certain features common to both the traditions such as introduction of heroes; the division of play into scenes, acts etc; the development of type roles; all actors leaving the stage at the end of an act etc. However, Indian scholars have argued that a careful examination reveals that while a few similarities to exist, major differences cannot be ignored.



Greek drama


Intended for men with literary taste & scholarship

Plays are intended for masses


Absence of tragic ends

Displays tragedy


Recitation of verses is used

Chorus is preferred


Importance to dancing is given

Not much importance to dancing


Aim is realisation of Rasa and attainment of eternal bliss


Shifting of scenes from earth to heaven is often seen


Imitates particular state of mind

Imitates action


Purvaranga is an integral part of Sanskrit plays


The scope covered by Natya Shastra is wider than that covered by the western equivalent.

It took into account every aspect of theatrical relevance including – theatre architecture, costumes, make-ups, dance, music, play construction, poetic compositions, grammar, ritual observances etc

Characteristics of Sanskrit drama

Natya Shastra mentions about some major characteristics required of

Sanskrit drama:

1. Itiscomposedofsacredmaterial


2. It is meant for audience that is well versed in the performance of the tradition

3. Itisperformedbymembersofthehighestrankincast

4. It requires a special knowledge and skill to execute. A complete

understanding of dance music, recitation and ritual language is essential

5. Trainingisahereditaryprocess

6. Mustbeperformedonconsecratedground

7. Itservesthepurposeofeducationandentertainment.

8. SanskritdramaiscalledRupaka.One-actplaysarecalledUpa-rupaka

9. Noplayshouldendintragedy

10.Prose is mostly accompanied by emotion laden poetics

11 The hero, the king and Brahmins speak in Sanskrit while lower people

speak in Prakrit language

12 The play depicts both joy and sadness while the Vidushak (comedian)

provides laughter.

13 Death cannot be depicted on the stage

14 Actions like eating, biting, scratching, kissing and sleeping are not

depicted on the stage.

15 Love is the major theme of most of the plays.

16 Acts are varied in number and length

Elements of Rupaka

There are three elements for a Rupaka. They are (a) Vastu or plot of the play. (b) Rasa (c Neta or the hero

Vastu (Plot)

Plot may be divided into two parts-

(a) Principal plot (Adhikarik). It refers to the main characters and pervades throughout the story.

(b) The subplot (Prasangik). It is added to the main plot. All characters except the hero may be involved in the sub-plot. The subplot is again divided into two categories – Prakara and Pataka. These are episodes written to hinder and develop the normal flow of the story. Whereas Pataka may be quite long, Prakara would be an incident of limited duration.

Principal plot Vastu has three – Bija, Bindu and Karya. Bija refers to the seed or plot; Bindu refers to drop or the fall and Karya refers to the climax. The source for the plot may be from history or mythology


There are five Avasthas (stages) in the development of a plot- (a) Aarambha (beginning) (b) Yama (effort to bring out the Rasa) (c ) Prapthyasha



(d) Niyatapti (removal of obstacles) (e) Phalagam (obtaining the desired result).

The five Avasthas are united by five Samadhis (junctures)


Rasa or sentiment is the base of all Sanskrit plays. It arises bhavas. Before getting down to rasa-bhava, We will try to understand abhinaya. The word literally means “leading towards,” with the implication in performance of leading the audience towards an emotional response (rasa), but it is generally used to mean the actor’s art of expressing feeling. It covers everything that an actor may use on stage to communicate the play’s meaning and the character’s emotions and intentions to the audience.


Abhinaya has four components:

(a) gesture and movement (anything to do with the body)

(b)speech and singing (anything accomplished with the voice)

(c) costume and make-up (anything using outside objects, including the

few props or set elements that appear in Sanskrit drama) (d) “representation of the Sattva” or the portrayal of emotion.

Abhinaya comprises the whole of an actor’s craft. The movements and gestures of the actors, such as the hand or eye movements which they learn in years of training and apprenticeship convey a lot to the audience. With good abhinaya, the gestural codes seem spontaneous and natural even though they have been carefully worked out and codified over centuries. Most of the published studies on Indian classical theater provide lists of the scores of codified movements and gestures Indian actors and dancers use. Many are depicted in temple carvings. The whole aim of abhinaya is to depict the feelings of the character (bhavas) and convey them to the audience so that they will respond with the desired “mood” (rasa) appropriate for the play. The Natyashastra introduced the theory of bhava and rasa, so central to Indian aesthetics. It had a profound effect on most of the traditional art forms of India.


Bhava means an emotional state or mood, portrayed by the dancer-actor.


Rasa, “taste” or “essence”, refers to the sentiment that the bhava, manifested by the actor, should evoke in the audience. The rasas were originally eight in number, but the post-Natyashastra tradition added a ninth one.

1. The Erotic (srngara),

2. The Comic (hasya),

3. The Pathetic (karuna),

4. The Furious (raudra),

5. The Heroic (vira),

6. The Terrible (bhayanaka),

7. The Odious (bibhatsa),

8. The Marvellous (abhuta) and

9. The Tranquil (santa).

According to Bharata, the actor-dancer should be able to elicit the rasa experience in the audience through the stahyi bhava or permanent emotion.

Neta (Hero)

The hero (nayaka) may be a god, demi-god or a mortal. There are four kinds of heros







Calm and magnanimous

Ideal hero with all 8 manly characteristics




Lacks one of 8 manly characteristic – Ravana



Graceful & Good looking

Not serious




Peace loving & patient


Each of them is again classified into Dakshina (gallant), Satha (sly, Dhrstha (bold) and Anukula (or devoted to heroine)

The eight characteristics for a hero are – (1) Shobha (handsome), (2) Maadhurya (sweet in behaviour), (3) Gambhirya (combination of pride and strength) (4) Dhairya (courageous), (5) Tejas (charismatic), (6) Bilaas (With broad outlook and open thought) (7) Laalitya (humourous and adorable) (8) Audarya (generous and magnanimous)

Nayika (Heroine)

Heroines are classified into eight categories.

(1) Vaasakasajjika (dressed up for union) (2) Virahotkandhita (distressed by separation)

(3) Svaadhinabhartrka (having husband under subjection) (4) Kalahaatarita (separated by squarrel) (5) Khandita (enraged) (6) Vipralabdha (the deceived) (7) Prositabhartrka (whose husband is on travel) (8) Abhisarika (who due to infatuation with a lover goes out to meet him)

Other characters

The characters of Sanskrit dramas are types rather than individuals. We just listed the characteristics of Nayaka and Nayika. The villain of the play is called Pratinayaka.

The comedian is called Vidushaka. He may even bea highborn Brahmin. He may possibly be intelligent; he is usually lazy, while his humour is spiced with eroticism. Because of his social background he is able to move freely in the social hierarchy. Thus he can be a close friend or a personal servant of the hero. However, only he is allowed to add social and even political criticism to the play and he translates the hero’s Sanskrit lines into vernacular language.

The troupes included various professionals, from minor actors to make-up assistants, stage technicians, musicians and the conductor of the orchestra. Music had a central role in the Sanskrit dramas.

The key figure of a troupe, as well as the actual play, is sutradhara, or the theatre director. He was supposed to have expert knowledge of all aspects of theatre. He also took an active role in the actual performance by introducing the actors and the play to the audience, in the prologue, and often guiding and commenting upon the flow of the story.

Presentation of the play

Before the play actually begins, a benedictory verse called “Nandi” is recited. It prays to the deity for the removal of all impediments that may arise during the performance of the play. Sutradhara retires after the Nandi and enters again to introduce the play. The prologue alludes to the poet’s literary


attainments, the occasion of production, the group of actors producing it etc. The play is divided into acts and scenes. The act must not be too long, must be full of Rasa prefixed, if needed by interludes. Even if tragedy is absent, tragic situations are developed with great skill. The interlude is a device which is used to communicate to the audience certain past and future events which have a direct bearing on the plot. The performance ends with a benedictory verse wishing welfare to all.

Aim of Sanskrit drama

The realisation of aesthetic bliss of Rasa is the highest purpose of Sanskrit drama. It can promote moral consciousness in the spectator. The drama is intended to achieve harmony out of chaos and produce restfulness out of disturbances. As an example, it is the hero Rama who should be followed and not the villain Ravana. Virtue should never be defeated. It is a powerful weapon against social, economic and political evils.


The language of Sanskrit dramas, is characterised by the blending of classical Sanskrit with local Prakrit languages. The royal heroes and Brahman priests, ascetics and high officials use Sanskrit, while women, children and all low-caste characters speak Prakrit. Thus the plays, already at the level of language, reflect the social and gender hierarchies of their time. This intermingling of languages may also have been intended to make the plays understandable for those spectators who did not understand Sanskrit.

Another characteristic of the dramas is the blending of prose and verse. The verses are mainly in Sanskrit, although, for example, nine of Shakuntala’s 194 verses are in Prakrit. The alternation of languages as well as prose and verse widens the scale of linguistic expression from “high” to “low”, from noble to vulgar, and anything in between.

Immortal Playrights


He was one of the earliest writers. He wrote about Buddhist teachings following the rules laid down in Natya Shastra. His work in fragmented form came to light.


13 plays by him have survived. Swapna vasavadatta is among his best known works. He composed plays based on Ramayana, Mahabharata and Puranas. The plays by him are listed below-

(1) Dootavaakya (2) Karnabhaara (3) Urubhanga (4) Pacharaatra (5) Avimaaraka : (6) Pratijnayaugandharaya (7) Charudatta (8) Balacharitra (9)


Pratimanaataka ; (10) Madhyamavyaayoga (11) Abhisheka (12) Svapna vasavadatta (13 Dootaghatokacha


Kalidasa was a contemporary and court poet of King Vikramaditya (57 BC). There are about 41 works attributed to him. However, the following seven are widely known.

Two Lyric poems – Ritusamhara and Megha doota

Two Maha Kavyas – Kumarasambhavam and Raghuvamsham

Three plays – Malvikagnimitram, Vikramorvasheeyam and Abhijana Shakuntalam


He was the composer of three Sanskrit works – Nagananda, Ratnavali and Priyadarshika





Hindu symbology Introduction

From time immemorial human beings have been using symbols for various purposes. You can find symbols in every field – science, engineering, medical, legal, ruling establishments, flags, logos – you name it. It will not be far from truth to say that, there exists no field that does not employ symbols. In fact, word itself is a symbol. For example, the word “tree” (spoken or written) is not the tree itself. It is just a symbol for it. A personal name is a symbol representing the person.

The symbol could be an object, picture, written word, sound or even a mark that represents something else by association, resemblance or convention. So religion, in fact all religions, have their own symbols. These symbols instantly connect the individual to the inner self. Naturally, symbols will make a sense or have an effect only when approached with appropriate understanding and the right attitude.


In every religion, there are three parts – philosophy, mythology and ritual. Philosophy gives the essence of the religion. Mythology plays a different role. Through stories, fables and lives of great men they bring out how these men faced trials in their lives and the examples they set in the conduct of their lives. Rituals give to philosophy a more concrete form, so that everyman can grasp it. Ritual is a karma. In the early stages, most of us cannot grasp the abstract spiritual points made in the explanations given in the religious texts. These may start making sense, after we have grown spiritually. What appears to be easy while studying the texts may not be easy to comprehend when it comes to real practice. This is where symbols come to our help. It is not wise to ignore rituals and symbology altogether. Let us now have a look at some of the symbols used in the Hindu religion.

The mystic Mantra “OM”

In the Hindu symbology, “OM” is the most pronounced sacred sound symbol or “Nada Brahman”. It is also called the “Pranava” mantra. It is regarded as the symbol of the Parabrahman. OM encompasses all the aspects and the angles of the creative power and has no substitute. Thus, this monosyllable mantra is crowned as the supreme in Vedic scripture. When OM is pronounced we utter three letters A U M. All triplets are considered to be represented by OM. Some examples are given below.

Shiva Linga


Brahma Saraswati Rajas Prakruti Body Past

Sat Jagrat

Vishnu Shivam Lakshmi Durga Sattva Tamas Jivatma Paramatma Mind

Soul Present Future Chit Ananada Swapna Sushupti

Shiva meaning “auspicious one” is a major Hindu deity. It means He is not affected by the three Gunas – Sattwa, Rajas and Tamas. Followers of


Hinduism who focus their attention upon Shiva are called Shaivites or Shaivas. Shiva is usually worshipped in the form of Shiva Linga.

Shiva’s form

Lord Shiva wears a deer skin. He has a trident on His right hand. He has fire and Damaru. He wears five serpents as ornaments. He wears a garland of skulls. He is pressing with His feet a demon. Panchakshara itself is His body.

a) Third eye: Lord Shiva is depicted with a third eye with which He burnt Kamadeva. For this reason He is called Tryambakam. The third eye depicts the eye of knowledge.

b) Crescent moon: Lord Shiva bears a crescent moon on His head. This is why is called Chandrasekhara. The waxing and waning phenomenon of the moon symbolises the cycle through which the creation evolves.

c) Ashes: Lord Shiva smears Bhasma or ashes on His body. The significance is – ashes are left over after the diverse names and forms disappear.

d) Matted hair: Lord Shiva sports a matted hair

e) Blue throat: One of the items that emerged when the milky ocean was churned was poison. Lord Shiva drank this poison. His throat turned blue due to the venom of the poison. For this reason He is referred to as Neelakanta.

f) Sacred Ganga: King Bhagiratha, after a lot of Tapas, got his wish to bring the sacred river Ganga from heaven to earth fulfilled. But the task of withstanding the force of the hurling Ganga became an issue. Bhagiratha prayed for the assistance of Lord Shiva. The Lord took the river Ganga on His head and tied her up. Later at the request of Bhagiratha He released her. After this, Lord Shiva is referred to as Gangadhara. Ganges represents nectar in the Sahasrara.

g) Tiger skin: The Lord is often shown seated upon a tiger skin. Tiger represents lust. His sitting on tiger skin symbolises that He has conquered lust.

h) Serpents: Lord Shiva is, often shown, garlanded with a snake. This denotes His wisdom and charity.

i) Nandi: This is the name of the bull that serves as His Vahana (mount). Rishabha or bull represents Dharma Devata. Lord Shiva rides the bull. The significance is that Lord Shiva is the protector of Dharma.


j) Rudraksha: Rudra refers to Lord Shiva. Aksha refers to the eye of Rudra. This is a bead from a tree. This is considered to have emanated from the eye of Lord Shiva when He burnt the Tripura asuras. This is one of the holy symbols worn by Shaivites along with the Holy Ash. This is worn as a single bead or as garlands of beads.

The twelve Jyotirlingas

For the followers of Shiva, the most important pilgrim centres are the twelve Jyotirlingas. Reference to these Jyotirlingas is also found in the Shiva Purana. Lord Shiva is said to have revealed Himself to the devotees in the form of Jyoti or light. For this reason they are called Jyotirlingas. The 12 Jyotirlinga shrines, popularly known as the Dwadasa Jyotirlinga shrines are considered to be very holy by the Hindus. The Jyotirlinga temples have a rich tradition and each temple has a legend attached to it. They are situated in different parts of India. The southernmost of these is located at Rameshwaram, while the northernmost is located in the snowy heights of the Himalayas at Kedarnath. These temples are closely linked with legends from the Puranas and are rich in history and tradition. The twelve Jyotirlinga temples are the following.

1.Somnath Jyotirlinga Shrine

2.Mallikaarjun Mahadeva Temple 3.Mahakaleshwar Temple

4.Nageshwar Jyotirlinga Temple 5.Rameshwar Jyotirlinga Temple 6.Grishneshwar Jyotirlinga Temple 7.Tryambakeshwar Jyotirlinga Temple 8.Bhimashankar Jyotirlinga Temple 9.Kedarnath Jyotirlinga Temple 10.Omkareshwar Jyotirlinga Temple 11.Baijnath (Vaidhyanath) Jyotirlinga Temple 12.Vishwanath Jyotirlinga Temple

Vishnu Worship Saligrama Shilas

Much as the devotees of Shiva worship Shiva Linga, the devotees of Vishnu worship Saligrama. Many people consider Saligrama to be a special avatar of Lord Vishnu. In some parts of India, Tulasi vivaha with Saligrama is conducted with great reverence. Tulasi signifies Goddess Lakshmi.

It is usually black in colour with the symbol of Sudarshana chakra. The chakras can be seen both outside and inside. The Saligrama stone is not believed to be just another stone found in the nature. It is found only at Gandaki River situated high in the Himalayas in Nepal. There are a number of types of Saligrama available, the classification being based on colour, size,


shape, openings (called dwaras), chakras etc. Following are some examples –


Lakshminarayana Saligrama

It is light dark in colour, has one opening, four chakras and one line.


Pradyumna Saligrama

It is small in size, has one chakra on the top, and has crooked openings.


Aniruddah Saligrama

It is round in shape. Has a light yellow colour and has a smooth glass like appearance. Brings peace and happiness to the owner.


Vasudeva Saligrama

Worship of this is considered as equivalent to worshipping Krishna himself. Round in shape, shiny, with one opening surrounded by two chakras. It is believed that it will bring to its devotees their heart’s desires.


Sankarshana Saligrama

Has two chakras facing each other. It is narrow in the front and wider at the rear. It is believed that it will bring Knowledge to the Brahmacharis.


Narasimha Saligrama

Worshipped with great devotion. It has two chakras and the shape varies. The devotee of this Saligrama becomes a “sarva sanga tyagi” (renunciate) and a Jitendria


Lakshmi Narasimha Saligrama

Not as ugra as the Narasimha Saligrama. This Saligrama is thus an embodiment of pleasantness. This has a wide opening, has two chakras and has a garland like of line. This brings to the devotees peace and solace.


Hayagriva Saligrama

Has the face of a Horse and has two chakras. Not so appealing in appearance.


Suited for Jnanam (education).


Sudarshana Saligrama

Has an ordinary form with one Chakra


Gadadhara Saligrama

Very ordinary with one chakra


Madhusudana Saligrama

Cloudy in colour and has the shape of a wheel. Has the sign similar to the foot print of a calf. Considered very Holy.


Lakshminarayana Saligrama

Has one opening and a line shaped like a garland. Has a colour of dark clouds and four chakras. It is very rare and special. It is said to fulfil all the desires of the devotees.


Lakshmi Janardhana Saligrama

Same as above (12) but does not have the garland shaped line.


Vamana Saligrama

Small in size. Has two small wheels and a cloudy colour. Neither a garland nor any indication of holes is visible.


Sridhara Saligrama

Same as (14) above, but has a garland like line.It is believed that the devotee will be showered with great prosperity


Raghunatha Saligrama

Two openings, four chakras and a sign similar to the foot print of a calf.


Damodara Saligrama

Large and round in size and is commonly found commonly found in temples. It has two chakras


Ranarama Saligrama

It is round and medium in size, with two



Rajarajeshwara Saligrama

Same size as (17), but with seven chakras and the sign of an umbrella (Chatri). It is believed that it will bring Raja Yoga and Raja Sanmanam to the devotees



Anantha Saligrama

Pitch black with 14 chakras. It is regarded as the Holiest of the Saligramas. It is very rare to find


Tilaka is a mark worn on the forehead. It is regarded as a mark of auspiciousness. All Hindus wear it, at least, during puja and festival occasions. It is worn on the forehead. The marks that Hindu men and women wear on their foreheads are known as Pundras. They may be vertical (Urdhva), horizontal (tiryak) or circular (vartula.)

The practice of wearing Tilaka dates back to Rig-Veda period. As time passed on, the practice of marking Tilaka increased in variety. Devotees of Shiva and Vishnu used their own styles. Enough support from Vedic literature is quoted indicating the reasons for the style and need to wear them. They are not being worn as a symbolic gesture. Specific parts of the body where the marks have to be worn and the accompanying mantras to be uttered while wearing them are also prescribed.

Shaivite Tilak

The Shaivites mark their body with Bhasma and Tripundra tilaks. Bhasma means smearing the body with ashes. Tripundra tilak is wearing three horizontal lines with Bindi or dot in varied sizes between the eyebrows. Since the Bindi is applied in the ajna chakra, the space between the eyebrows, it has a cooling effect. The significance of applying the three horizontal lines of Bhasma is as follows. When the third eye of the Jiva is opened, the three kinds of afflictions – Adhyatmika, Adhidaivika and Adibhautika are burnt to ashes. The three Karmas – Sanchia, Prarabdha, and Agami – are also burnt.

The ash or Bhasma is prepared out of burnt cow dung. According to scriptures there are five types of Bhasma depending on the breed of cow from which it is prepared. These are Vibhuti, Bhadra, Bhasma, Ksara and Raksa. There are locations prescribed for the application of the ashes. Typically – neck, right side of the neck, cheeks, eyes, mouth, heart, navel, right and left shoulders, right and left elbows, right and left wrists, back of right and left palms and shoulder blades. The act of smearing ash at various parts is accompanied with the uttering of specific mantras. Apart from the Bhasma the devotee sports the Tripundra Tilak. Once again there are designated places for the application of Tripundra as well.

Vaishnavaite Tilak – Urdhvapundra

The Vaishnava argument is that the body must undergo many samskaras. This is done basically to make the body more pure and thereby aid the


Jivatma in the path of spiritualism resulting in achieving the ultimate goal of God realisation. The Pancha – Samskara is superior to all samskaras. In fact, the title “Iyengaar” in Tamil is said to have been derived from “Iyndu angam udayavar or Iyendu kaaryangal udayavar”. This refers to “Pancha Samskaras”. It may also refer to the five “angas” (limbs) of Prapatti.

Pancha Samskaras

The Pancha Samskaras (Five samskaras) are as follows.

i. Thapa Samskara: The acharya embosses the impressions of Shankam (Conch) and Sudarshana Chakra (Discuss) on the left and right arms of the disciple respectively. These two are the weapons of Lord Maha Vishnu.

ii. Pundram: To wear the Dwaadasha Urdhva Pundram (12 Tiruman and Srichoornam).

iii. Naamam: To be initiated by the Acharya as Ramanuja Dasan. This is to indicate that one is forever the servant of Lord Sriman Narayana and Sri Ramanujacharya.

iv. Mantram: To get the initiation of “Rahasya traya mantras” (Ashtakshari, Dvayam, Charama slokam)

v. Ijyai: To learn the worship of Lord Narayana in proper form

Pundra Samskaram

The Sri Vaishanava concept is that our body is like a temple. The Supreme Lord Narayana resides, along with His consort, in Vyuha and Upa-vyuha (also called Vyuha-antara) form in different parts of our body. The Sri Vaishnava marks are only external display of the Upa-vyuha forms of the Lord. This is known as Pundra Samskaram.

Pundra is an abbreviated form for the word Urdhvapundra. It signifies wearing on the forehead the symbolic mark in the shape of the Lord’s lotus feet. The orthodox Sri Vaishnava is expected to wear the twelve Pundras (Thiruman) with the chanting of the twelve names of Lord Narayana – commonly known as the Dwadasha Nama of Lord Narayana. The significance lies in the purification of the body. The list of Dwadasha Namas is indicated in the table below. The salutation to the Lord has to be done with folded hands (Anjali mudra). The Lord’s names are pronounced prefixed by Pranava. For example “Keshavaya Namaha”.

The Upa-vyuha forms of Lord Narayana are the presiding deities of the twelve Adityas.


The appropriate Upa-vyuha is invoked through anga-nyasa (gestures) with devotion and reverence while investing each set of Urdhvapundra.

No Vyuha

– the source

1 Vasudeva 2


4 Sankarshana 5


7 Pradyumna 8


10 Aniruddha 11


Vyuhantara or Upa-vyuha (Dwadasha Namas of Lord Narayana)

Keshava Narayana

Madhava Govinda Vishnu Madhusudhana Trivikrama Vamana Sridhara Hrishikesha Padmanabha Damodara


Margashira Pousha

Magha Phalguna Chaitra Vaishakha Jyeshta Ashada Shravana Bhadrapada Ashvina Kartika



Mitra Pusha


Location for the

Urdhva- Pundra


Lower abdomen (centre)


Front neck (centre) Lower abdomen (right) Right arm

Neck (right side) Lower abdomen (left) Left arm

Neck (left side)

Back (lower spinal ) Back (upper spinal)

The Upa-vyuha form of Lord Narayana is externally represented by the Urdhva- Pundra. The “Tiruman” represents the Lord and the “Sri Churnam” represents Devi Mahalakshmi.

Achamana and Prokshana

All acts, rituals and symbols have a deep philosophical significance. They give you an opportunity to think of God frequently. In addition they help you to for a change in state of mind from Tamas and Rajas to Sattva.

Achamana refers to an act of sipping water three times, while repeating the names of the Lord. This is an internal purification. Prokshana refers to the act of sprinkling water over the body. It is an act of external purification when bathing is not possible.

The mantras to be repeated while sipping water three times are – Achyutaya namah (prostrations to the immutable Lord); Ananthaya namah (prostrations to the unlimited Lord); Govindaya namah (prostrations to the Lord well known

Bhaga Tvashta Vishnu Aryama Vivasvana Amshumana Parjanya Varuna Indra



by the name of Govinda). Then the Dwadasha namas of the Lord are repeated touching the various parts of the body – Keshavaya namah, Narayanaya namah, Madhvaya namah, Govindaya namah, Vishnave namah, Madhusudhanaya namah, Tivikramaya namah, Vamanaya namah, Sridharaya namah, Hrishikeshaya namah, Padmanabhaya nah and Damodaraya namah

Offering food to God and Pancha Pranas

Before taking food, the food is offered to the five Pranas and the Supreme Lord seated in the heart. This is done along with the repetition of mantras – Pranaya Svaha, Apanaya Svaha, Vyanaya Svaha, Udanaya Svaha, Samanaya Svaha and lastly Brahmane Svaha. Before eating the food, we offer it to the deities who dwell in the body in the form of Prana, Apana etc

Hindu Upasana and Rituals Upasana or Worship

Worship is the effort on the part of an Upasaka (he who does Upasana or worship) to reach the presence of God. Upasana literally means sitting near God. In the process the Upasaka reveals an expression of devotion, reverence, love to the Lord and a spiritual thirst to hold communion with Him.

As the Upasaka sits near the Lord and meditates, a change is brought around gradually. His mind is steadied and emotions quieten down. A Shuddha Bhava develops. Over a period of time Rajas and Tamas are destroyed. Eventually the mind becomes that on which it is meditating. Upasana is of two kinds. Refer to the chart below.



Ahamgraha Upasana

Ahamgraha Upasana is meditation on formless and attribute less Brahman. It is also called as Nirguna Upasana. Chanting Om with Atma-bhava, mental Japa of Om constitute Nirguna Upasana.

Pratika Upasana

Pratika means symbol. Meditation using idols, pictures etc all come under Pratika Upasana. It is also called Saguna Upasana. Singing songs, kirtan, offering flowers, prostration, prayer, self surrender, service of holy men constitute Saguna Upasana. Saguna Upasana is bhakti Yoga. It is easier to practice than Nirguna Upasana.


Puja is a common term for ritual worship. Archana, Vandana, Bhajana etc are all synonyms of the same act. They may, however, stress different aspects of it.Theobjectofworshipisaparticular form of a deity whom the devotee worships.Itcouldbeanidol(Pratima),picture,Linga or saligrama. They all help the aspirants to attain one-pointedness of mind and purity of heart.

Do Hindus worship hundreds of Gods?

Hinduism is the oldest religion in the world. In fact, the term “Hinduism” was coined after the British arrived. It was originally called “Sanatana Dharma”. It has been there for 1000s of years. During this time it has faced many challenges – perhaps, more than any other religion. However, it is still there. It is still relevant.


The misconceptions about Hinduism are endless. We are going to address one of the misconceptions now. What is that? Time and again Hinduism has been accused of polytheism – that is worshipping many Gods. Is that true?

Vedas are Holy Scriptures for Hindus. They are authoritative documents. There is no mention at all in the Vedas regarding many Gods. They talk about only ONE Supreme Being – Para Brahman; Eshvara.

1. In the Rig Veda. In the 10th Mandala (book); 129th hymn we come across – Nasadiya Sukta. It talks about the origin of creation. It describes the situation after the great “Pralaya”. This Hymn is conceptually extremely provocative and is popular among scientists and thinkers such as Carl Sagan. It says clearly, there was only ONE; No other; He was the creator; He is the Para Brahman; There are not many Gods;

2. Then let us look at Purusha Sukta. The Purusha Sukta is the 90th Sukta in the 10th Mandala – in the Rig Veda. Purusha refers to the Supreme Being. Para Brahman. He is described as the source of all creation.

3. The earliest statement on the Nature of Reality occurs in the first book of the Rig Veda. “Ekam Sat-Viprah Bahudha Vadanti”. “That which exists is One. But sages call it by various names.” God, Ishvara, Krishna, Lakshmi, Parvati, Yahweh, Allah, etc, they are all names that different people use to describe the same.

Now let us look at some of the Maha Vakyas (great sayings).

a. “Ekam evadviteeyam Brahma” (Brahman is one without second);

b. “Prajnanam Brahma” (Consciousness is Brahman) – Aitareya Upanishad

c. “Tat tvam asi” (You are that) – Chandyopanishad.

d. “Ayam Atma Brahma” (Atman and Brahman are the same)

Mandukyopanishad“ Aham Brahmasmi” (I am Brahman).

e. Brihadaranyaka Upanishad. Without any limitations like Avidya

etc the Atman is Brahman.

f. “Sarvam Kalvidam Brahma.” (All that we see is Brahman)

From all this we reach the conclusion that – we are not talking of many Gods; we are also not talking of one God; we are saying there is only God.


Now to the question of Gods like – Rama, Krishna, Ganesha, Shiva.

Worship is possible in two ways (a) for Saguna Brahman (b) Nirguna


(a) Nirguna Brahman: It refers to Abstract meditation (i.e.) worship of Formless, attribute-less Brahman. It is not easy. It may be practiced by highly advanced Yogis.

(b) Saguna Brahman: Concrete meditation. Worship of Parameshvar as Rama, Krishna, and idols etc fall under Saguna Brahman. Easier for people like us – who require some help in concentration. Everything like temple worship, Puja, homa etc fall under the

category of worshipping Saguna Brahman.

What about worshipping other Gods like – Sun, Moon and others?

These are Other Gods brought out by the Supreme Brahman. They are called Vibhutis (manifestations) of the Supreme Being. They are Devatas with extraordinary powers. However, they derive their power from the Supreme Brahman.

Idol worship

Human beings are slaves of symbols. Animals do not have this problem. Man lives in a world of symbols. His education is full of symbols – Physics, Chemistry etc. Governments have symbols. Parties have symbols. Music has symbols. Photographs of families are also symbols. Companies and their products have symbols. In fact, the man’s name is also a symbol. The symbol instantly brings to the mind a picture of the object. We are all quite happy in using these symbols. Yet, when we use symbols to focus our mind on our favourite Gods we have questions raised. We shall now to try to understand our reasons to worshipping idols.

As explained earlier we do have enlightened Sadhaks practicing Nirguna Brahman Upasana. However, for an average person involved in Samsara it will be a very difficult task. He needs some aid in focusing his attention. He adopts Pratika Upasana. Pratika means a symbol. Meditation on idols, pictures of Lord Rama, Krishna, Shiva, Rajarajeshwari come under this category. We have just stated that Hindus believe that God is everywhere. Extending this thought God is there in the idol that I am worshipping. When I worship the idol, I am not worshipping the stone in front of me. I am worshipping the God within that idol. In the Vaishnava tradition, the idols are referred to as Archa avatar. And there are four classes of them. They are :


(1) Svayamvyakta: This refers to the class of idols that are believed to have been self-created. Examples are idols found in temples such as Srirangam, Tirupati, Kanchi etc.

(2) Divya: This refers to idols that have been installed and consecrated by Divinities such as Brahma, Indra and others

(3) Arsha: This refers to idols that have been installed and consecrated by sages and seers such as Bhrigu, Markandeya and others

(4) Manusha: Refers to idols / images installed and consecrated in temples or in their houses. Other religions also do have symbols before which they kneel and offer prayers.

Pratima, the idol, is a substitute or symbol. The image, though it is made of stone, wood or metal, is precious for the devotee as it bears the mark of his Lord. It stands for something which he holds as holy and eternal. He superimposes all the attributes of the Lord on the image when he prays. The idol will remain an idol but the worship goes to the Lord. The Sadhak feels the presence of the Lord in the Idol and pays all the respects due to a Master of Masters and the Lord of Lords. In his unbridled emotion, he pours out –

“Tvameva Mata cha pita tvameva tvameva bandusca guru tvameva

tvameva Vidya dravinam tvameva tvameva sarvam mama deva deva”


O Lord of Lords (Deva, Deva), you are my mother (Mata); You are my father (pita); You are my sole relative (bandhu); You are my Guru; You are my knowledge (Vidya); You are my wealth (dravinam); You are everything to me (sarvam). It is true that everyone in this world is driven by symbols. A flag is not a piece of cloth – it is a national symbol. The government seal is not any rubber stamp – it carries a symbol of authority. Idol worship is not peculiar to Hinduism. The Christians worship the cross. The Mohammedans keep the image of the Kaba stone, when they kneel and do prayers. Even a Vedantin has the symbol of OM for fixing his wandering mind. The divinity of the all pervading God is shining in every atom of His creation and He is there in the


idols as well. According to the Vaishnava system Sriman Narayana is present in consecrated images (Archavatar) also.

The ways and rules for worship – Puja Vidhi are described in Hindu scriptures. There are sixteen steps described when you want to worship an idol – Shodasha Upachara. The details are given below. All the steps are accompanied with the chanting of mantras.






Invoking the God.



Here it means welcoming God to take His seat in the idol or the symbol which we are worshipping. In essence, it is the offering of one’s heart as the throne or seat



It is washing the feet of the idol or symbol. Here the water offered is devotion to the feet of God



Offering water to the hands of the God. Once again it refers to offering oneself into the hands of the God



Offering pure water for sipping



Ceremonial bathing with milk, sugar, honey and water



Offering new and beautiful clothes and wrapping them around the idol. This means, donning oneself with divine wisdom and living in a world untainted by passion



Offering of the sacred thread. Reference here is – to be filled with pure thoughts



Refers to besmearing the body of the Supreme Being with musk, red powder and sandalwood paste. We are adoring the Lord with all that is noble in man



Offering of flowers. It means that we are offering our heart



Burning of incense. It refers to burning our sins by the fire of wisdom




The wick of light which is kept or waved before the holy symbol of the God. This refers to burning the egoistic mind and Karma.



Offering of the food – offering of great mantras or prayers.(a) Taambula: Offering of betal leaf and betal nut to purify the mouth after food. This is the word of wisdom emanating from the feast of mantra. : (b) Jala: Water to rinse the mouth. Vasanas or subtle desires are thrown out while rinsing : (c) Madhuparka: Fruits offered after the rinsing of the mouth.

Fruits refer to the four types of liberation (1) Saaroopya – attaining the likeliness of God. (2) Saalokya – living in the abode of God. (3) Saamipya: living near God (4) Saaujya: Merging in God


Pradakshina and Namaskara

Perambulation and salutation



Offering of flowers and red rice for peace.



Offering the most beautiful bed to God for Him to rest. This refers to offering our pure heart to God and praying to Him to make our heart as His abode

There are different stages of worship. The first stage is idol worship and forms the seed from which his understanding will grow. At this first stage the sadhaka superimposes the God and his attributes on the idol. Gradually, he will see the Lord in the idol and in all creatures, in all the names and forms in this universe. He will feel His presence everywhere. He will then be able to perform mental worship. Eventually, with unceasing worship on the Supreme Brahman, he will inch towards Brahma Saakshatkaara.

For various people, practice of elaborate rituals or Yogas may not be possible. Moksha will then remain a dream for them and Samsara will be eternal. However, it is not as if their cause is lost. In the Bhagavad Gita Lord Krishna assures –

“Sarvadharman Parityajya Mam Ekam Saranam Vraja | Aham tva Sarva Papebhyo Mokshayishyami Masuchaha ||”


This is the noblest of all Shlokas in the Bhagavad Gita. To Sri Ramanujacharya, this is the final verse (charama Shloka) of the whole Gita. So these are the final verses of Lord Krishna to Arjuna in the 18th chapter, 66th Shloka of the Gita. The meaning is – if the aspirant has no capacity to perform Sadhanas like Karma Yoga, Jnana Yoga or Bhakti Yoga etc, he can perform this alternative sadhana through charama sloka. “Having given up all Dharmas or rites unintentionally, surrender to the Lord alone. I will release you from all sins and give Moksha”. It explains that Lord as the only Upaya or means to be adopted.

Homa or Havan

Homa (also known as homam or havan) is a Sanskrit word which refers to any ritual in which making offerings into a consecrated fire is the primary action. Homa is an important religious practice in Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism.

Homa and Aradhana are basically offering of intensive Puja to different Gods and Goddesses. Some call it Homa Puja; some call it Homam or Homan. People do Homa Puja and Aradhana to get faster spiritual effects or to get benefits like – To get peace of mind and happiness , peace at home (griha shanti) and at workplace

Although a consecrated fire is the central element of every homa ritual, the procedure and items offered to the fire vary by the occasions for the ceremony, or by the benefit expected from the ritual. Procedures invariably involve –

The kindling and consecration of the sacrificial fire;

The invocation of one or more divinities; and,

The making of offerings (whether real or visualized) to them with the fire as a media, amid the recitation of prescribed prayers and mantras. The goal of all Homams is the prosperity of the people at large by energizing and protecting the environment. The Sun is considered as the main source of energy supply, and fire is considered as a representation of the Sun’s energy.

How the Homam is performed?

Each Homam is performed strictly according to scriptures. These are conducted by fully learned and experienced Vedic scholars. The ingredients required for these homams are different for each homam. Each homam is performed after praying (Sankalpa) for the specific relief / benefit desired for the individual.



Yagna is a ritual of sacrifice.

A Vedic (shrauta) Yagna is typically performed by an adhvaryu priest, along with a number of additional priests such as the hotar, udgatar playing supporting roles, by reciting or singing Vedic verses.. Usually, there will be one or three fires at the centre of the offering ground and items are offered into the fire. Among the items offered as oblations in the Yagna are large quantities of ghee, milk, grains, cakes or soma. The duration of a Yagna depends on the type; some can last a few minutes, hours or days and some even last for years, with priests continuously making offerings to the gods accompanied by the singing of sacred verses. Some Yagnas are performed privately, others with a large number of people in attendance.

A typical Hindu marriage is a Yagna, because Agni is supposed to be the witness for all marriages. Brahmins and certain other castes receive a yagyopavita “sacred thread” at their upanayana rite of passage. The yagyopavita symbolizes the right of the individual to study the Vedas and to carry out Yagnas or homas.

There are 400 yagyas described in the Vedas. Of these, 21 are theoretically compulsory for a Brahmin. They are also called nityakarmas. The rest of the Yagna are optional, which are performed for specific benefits- kamyakarma

Reasons for doing Shraaddha Prana

The nucleus of all activities of the body is the Prana. It gets its work done through Upa-Pranas or secondary Pranas just as a king gets his work done by his subordinates. Each of these Upa-Pranas have their own work areas and they operate from specified action centres so to say. However, it must be noted that there is only one vital-breath or Prana. The five Pranas are – (a) Prana (b) Apana (c) Vyana (d) Udana (e) Samana. Different names are given to it on account of the different duties it performs in the body. The fivefold nature is a functional division.

The Prana dwells in the eye, the ears, nose and mouth enabling them to see, to hear, inhale and exhale and speak. The Apana is in the organs of excretion and procreation and initiates the process of discharge of the wastes and procreation. Between the Prana and Apana, in the region of the navel is located Samana. The body energy and vitality produced by digestion is equally distributed by its function. The lotus like heart is the seat the subtle Atman known as Lingatma. From within the space of the heart seventy


thousand energy channels branch out. Prana moves through all these channels giving energy to all the limbs and senses. For this reason, it is also referred to as Vyana.

At the time of death Udana, raises by the Susumna-nadi (One of the energy channels) which goes up to the top of the head taking the soul after it and departs the body. It reaches regions of the blessed or that of the condemned depending upon the good or bad actions performed. Evidently, Udana is the subtle aspect of the Prana which not only pervades the whole system, but also controls the Linga sharira (subtle body) in which the soul resides.

The Body

This physical body is composed of five great elements or the Mahabhutas, namely, earth, water, fire, air and ether. The Devas or gods are endowed with a divine or luminous body. The fire Tattva is predominant in them. In man the earth Tattva is predominant in us. In the case of aquatic animals the element of water predominates. In the case of birds the element of air predominates.

Hardness of the body is due to the portion of earth (Prithvi); the fluidity in us, is due to portion of water(Apah); the warmth that you feel in the body is due to fire (Agni); moving to and fro and such other activities are due to air (Vayu); space is due to Akasa or ether. Jivatma or the individual soul is different from the five elements.

After death these elements are dissolved. They reach their original sources from the inexhaustible storehouse of nature. The element of earth goes and joins its storehouse of Prithvi Tattva. The other elements also go back to their sources.

The dead body is bathed and newly clothed and is taken to the cremation ground where it is laid on the funeral pyre. The Mantras that are now chanted are addressed to the spirit. The spirit is invoked to throw out from its body its five Pranas or the vital airs, so that they may mingle with their counterparts in the external air. The body is then addressed to dissolve itself with its five material components of earth, water, fire, air and ether from where it originally arose. The body is then offered to fire. The spirit which is thus driven out of the body in consequence of the dissolution begins its onward march to the Beyond. The respective functions of the organs are blended with the presiding gods. Sight goes to the Sun from where it had its power of vision; speech goes to the fire, life-breath to the air, the ear into the quarters, the body into the earth, hairs into annual herbs, hairs of the head into trees and blood and semen into waters.


Pancha Pranas

Vayu is wind or air. Vayu is Prana or vital force. Prana moves the senses or Indriyas. Prana generates thoughts. Prana moves the body and causes locomotion. Prana digests the food, circulates the blood, excretes urine and motion. Prana causes respirations. It is through Prana you see, hear, feel, taste and think. The sum total of all Pranas is Hiranyagarbha or Lord Brahma. Prana is manifestation of Prakritis. Gross Prana is breath. Subtle Prana is vital force. Just as there is the subtle bladder within the football, so also there is the subtle body or Sukshma Deha within this gross body. Udana Vayu draws out the subtle body from the gross body at the time of death. It is this subtle body that goes to heaven and works in the dreaming state. Udana Vayu is the vehicle of transport for all Pranas. Its abode is the throat.

This immortal Soul or Atman which is the source and support for all the Pranas, mind, intellect, senses and the body abides in the chambers of your heart. This Atman is in the heart where there are a hundred and one arteries. Every one of these has seventy-two thousand branches. Vyana which does the circulation of blood moves in these arteries. A dead body cannot speak, cannot see. It remains like a log. It is the soul that enlivens, galvanises, moves and directs the body, mind and senses.

Udana, which goes up through one of these, leads you to the higher worlds by means of your meritorious actions, to the evil worlds by means of your evil deeds and to the world of men by a mixture of both deeds.

Onward March to the Beyond

The soul in its disembodied form hovers about its original and familiar places for ten days. It is in the form of a ghost during these ten days. The astral body takes shape from day to day with the formation of the head, eyes, and other limbs of the Linga Sarira, fed and nourished by the sesame and water poured out in libation over the stones which represent the ancestors.

The soul is fully embodied on the eleventh day. It starts on its journey to the judgement seat of Lord Yama, the God of death. It takes one full year from the time of death to reach Lord Yama’s place. The path is beset with obstacles, distress and difficulties. The man who has done the most wicked deeds suffers more. But the difficulties can be removed and the journey be rendered easy and comfortable by the oblations and offerings given by the son of the deceased during the first year of the soul’s journey and by feeding pure and learned Brahmins. The son should offer rice-balls to the father, without weeping. Death is certain for those who are born, and birth is certain for the dead.

This is inevitable. Therefore, you should not grieve over it. The ten days’ rites should not be neglected. The son should perform the Sapinda ceremony on


the twelfth day and the sixteen monthly offerings. The soul is sustained on its onward march to the judgement seat by the libations offered to it by the son.

The soul is scorched on the way by intense heat, but the gift of an umbrella by his son on the eleventh day gives pleasant shade above his head. The path is full of great thorns, but the gift of shoes helps him to go riding on horses. The miseries of cold, heat and wind are dreadful there, but he goes happily along the way by the power of gift of clothes. There is great heat and there is no water, but drinks water when thirsty, through the gift of a water-pot by his son. The son should make a gift of a cow.

Chitragupta, the recorder of fact, the Accountant-General in the Kingdom of Lord Yama informs the soul of his good and bad actions in his earthly life after the end of one full year. The soul leaves off its Pretatva or the garb of a traveller on this day. He is raised to the status of a Pitri or Ancestor.

Ancestor-worship is one of the fundamental doctrines of Hinduism. There are three stages:

in the ancestral life viz., father, grandfather and great grandfather, and mother, grandmother and great grandmother. These are the ancestors to anyone living here. He who has done meritorious actions on this earth-life becomes united with his ancestors in the Pitri-loka and lives with them.

Those who have given up the performance of Sraaddha, Tarpana and other religious rites on account of wrong influence, ignorance and egoism have done great harm to their ancestors and themselves. They should wake up now. They should start doing these ceremonies from now. It is not too late now.

Departure of Soul

At the time of death when the breathing becomes difficult the Jiva or the individual self (Atman) that is in the body goes out making noises. The departure of the Atman is immediately followed by the departure of the vital force (Prana). It is presided over by the Supreme self-luminous Atman. It goes making noises because it is afflicted by the pain as the vital parts are being slashed. Loss of memory is caused as a result of this vital and excruciating pain. He is then put in a helpless state of mind on account of the pangs felt. At this point in time man cannot think of God. He should have practiced much earlier a suitable means for that end. When the man is about to die, the various organs withdraw themselves into their original sources and help no more the function of the organs. In death there is a complete withdrawal of the organs into the heart or the heart-lotus or Akasa of the heart.

Knowledge, work and past experience are the three factors in deciding the future of an individual. One should, therefore, cultivate virtues, perform good


actions so that he may attain a desirable and agreeable body with desirable enjoyments.

Soul’s journey after death

The soul accompanied by the chief vital air (Mukhya Prana), the sense-organs and the mind. It takes with itself ignorance, good and evil actions and the impressions left by his previous existence, leaves its former body and obtains a new body. When the soul passes from one body to another he is enveloped by the subtle parts of the elements which are the seeds of the new body. He rises on the road leading through the smoke and so on, to the sphere of the moon. After enjoying the fruits of his good actions he again descends to the earth with a remainder of the Karma, by the route he went or differently. When the Karma, which gave the soul a birth as a god in heaven, is exhausted, the remaining Karma, good or bad, brings him back to the earth.

It is not possible that in one life the entire Karma of the previous life is worked out. Because a man might have done both good and bad deeds, as a result of which he is born as a god, or as an animal. The working out of both kinds of Karmas simultaneously in one birth is not possible. Hence although the result of virtuous actions is exhausted by the enjoyment in heaven, there still are other Karmas in store according to which a man is born again in good or bad environments. The soul has a vision of the body to come.


The Karma Kanda of the Vedas, the sacred books of the Hindus, has laid down different

duties for man according to his position in life and according to the order to which he belongs. All these injunctions are embodied in the book called Manusmriti. Manusmriti is the code of law and conduct for the Hindus. Kings and rulers of the past were guided by the rules contained therein for the maintenance of peace and order in the country. The Manusmriti has divided human society into four main divisions known as Brahmana, Kshatriya, Vaisya and Shudra. It has also made four divisions of the different stages of life of an individual viz., Brahmacharya, Garhasthya,Vanaprastha and Sannyasa. Brahmacharya is the life of a student, Garhasthya, the household life, Vanaprastha, the life in the forest given to religious pursuits, and lastly Sannyasa, the life of a mendicant after renouncing all worldly activities. These are the four Ashramas of life.

For a householder the scriptures have imposed the Pancha Maha Yajnas, the five great sacrifices as obligatory duties of life. The neglect of these duties entails penalty. These great sacrifices are:

1. Deva Yajna (sacrifice to gods),


2. Rishi Yajna (sacrifice to Rishis),

3. Pitri Yajna (sacrifice to ancestors),

4. Bhuta Yajna (sacrifice to animals), and

5. Atithi Yajna (sacrifice to guests). The Sraaddha ceremony comes under Pitri Yajna. It is the sacred duty of the householder.

Every householder should perform the Sraaddha ceremony for his ancestors. Pitris are forefathers who dwell in the Pitriloka. They possess the power of clairvoyance and clairaudience. When Mantras are recited, they exercise a tremendous influence through their vibrations. The Pitris hear the sounds through the power of clairaudience and they are pleased. They bless those who offer the oblation. In Sraaddha, the essence of food offerings is taken up by the Sun’s rays to Suryaloka and the departed souls are pleased with the offerings.

It is the imperative duty of all householders to perform Sraaddha and Tarpan to please the Rishis and Pitris. The Gita and the Upanishads clearly bear testimony to the fact that the performance of Sraaddha is very important. It is only the deluded souls with perverted intellect who misconstrue things and neglect to perform the sacred ceremonies and consequently suffer. They are misguided by false reasoning and logic.

Sraaddha ceremony is done once in every year. A day of the Pitris is equal to one year of human computation. This is the reason why we have to perform Sraaddha ceremony once in a year.

If we perform Sraaddha ceremony once in every year, it is equal to daily performances of Sraaddha for the Pitris. In their calculation we, their sons, live only for a few days, because the longest period of human existence of 100 years is merely 100 days for them.

Some people entertain the doubt, “When the Jiva undergoes transmigration and takes another birth after leaving this physical body, is it necessary that we should perform Sraaddha ceremony for him? He is no more in the heavens. To whom will the oblations reach?” In the ninth chapter of the Gita, Lord Krishna has made it very clear that those virtuous persons who perform sacrifices for the attainment of heaven attain to those worlds of enjoyments. “They having enjoyed that spacious world of Svargas, their merit (Punya) exhausted, enter the world of the mortals; thus following the Dharma of the triad, desiring objects of desires, they attain to the state of going and returning.” This establishes the theory of attainment of heaven after death, and rebirth in the mortal world after the exhaustion of virtuous acts. The enjoyments in heaven and peace of the soul are enhanced by the performance of Sraaddha ceremony. The suffering in worlds other than


heaven according to the merits of one’s own actions is mitigated by the performance of Sraaddha ceremony by his sons. So in both cases the performance of Sraaddha is a great help. The Pitris remain in heaven (Pitriloka, Chandraloka) for a very long period.

According to the theory of transmigration, even if the individual is to take another birth immediately after his death, the performance of Sraaddha adds to his happiness in his new birth. So it is the imperative duty of everybody to perform Sraaddha ceremony for his parents and forefathers. Sraaddha ceremony should be performed with great Sraddha (faith) as long as you live.

Some people argue and say that if a man once performs Sraaddha ceremony to his forefathers at Gaya and other places of religious importance, he need not do it every year thereafter. This is not a general rule and does not apply to all. It applies only in certain exceptional cases. If people take shelter under this exception and discontinue Sraaddha ceremony by once offering Pinda, etc., at Gaya, they do so out of sheer ignorance. They consider it merely a burden to perform Sraaddha ceremony and avoid it. They have not discharged their duties properly.

The various religious observances imposed upon mankind by the Shastras tend to purify the ignorant man. The goal of Karma Yoga is purification of the mind. Sraaddha ceremony, being one of the obligatory duties, as per the injunctions of scriptures, also tends to purify the mind. Besides this, the fore- fathers are also pleased and their good wishes and blessings tend to our material and spiritual growth.


Chapter VIII – Selected Stutis

Vedahametam Purusham Mahaatantam Adityavarnam tamasah parasthath

Tameva viditwati mrutyumeti naanyaha pandha vidyateyanaya

Swetashvaropanishad. 3.8


I know the Supreme Purusha, who is of the colour of the sun and is beyond all darkness. It is only by knowing Him that one goes beyond death. There is no other way by which one can get there.

Everyone prays, some more often than others. Even a heavily indoctrinated atheist will pray one day. Prayer involves (a) someone who prays (b) altar at which a person offers his prayers (c) the mode of prayer. Prayer always has a purpose. You pray because you desire something. Even when you pray for mental clarity (Antahkarana shuddhi), peace of mind or the ultimate Moksha it is still a desire. Implicit in praying are three important truths (a) acceptance of his or her limitations – on the part of the person who is praying (b) acceptance of a superior Self who can grant your wishes. (c) acceptance that the Lord will listen to your prayers and grant your wishes. Acceptance is the first and direct result of prayer- the melting of ego. Prayer is worthless without devotion or Bhakti.

At times you achieve what you prayed for within a short time. Quite often, the results do not occur within a short time and are not seen by the anxious devotee. The unseen results will manifest in time and we call it (Kripa) grace. You can pray for yourself or for the welfare of others you love.

Prayer can be said in simple words or in a more elaborate ritualistic manner. Ramana Maharshi has described that prayer may be offered in any one of the three different forms- (a) Kaayika (physical) (b) Vacika (oral) (c) Maanasa (mental). Ritual is physical form of prayer. Singing the praise of the Lord is an oral form of prayer. Chanting a mantra silently is a mental form of prayer.

The practice of devotion takes the following nine different forms –


(1) Hearing about God (2) singing about His greatness (3) remembering Him (4) serving Him through the service of all beings as His embodiments (5) worshipping Him in Holy images (6) paying obeisance to Him (7) practicing the attitude of a servant towards Him (8) cultivating loving intimacy with Him (9) surrendering one’s, body, mind and soul to Him.

Kaayika Vacika Maanasa

(physical) (oral) (mental)

1 Hearing about God ▲

2 Singing about His greatness ▲

3 Remembering Him ▲

Serving Him through the service of

4 all beings as His embodiments ▲ ▲

5 Worshipping Him in Holy images ▲ ▲

6 Paying obeisance to Him

Practicing the attitude of a servant

7 towards Him

8 Cultivating loving intimacy with Him

Surrendering one’s, body, mind and

9 soul to him

▲ ▲ ▲ ▲

▲ ▲ ▲

Everything that is done should be dedicated to Lord Narayana.

Kaayena vacha manas’endriyair vaa buddhyaatmanava prakrute’ svabhaavaat karomi yad sakalam parasmai Naraayanayeti samarpayami

Whatever is done according to one’s natural capacity by one’s body, words, mind senses Buddhi and the self – all that should be dedicated to Lord Narayana, the Supreme Being.


Worship is the expression of devotion, reverence and love to the Lord. The Upaasaka prays to the Lord for granting him his wishes. The word Upaasana literally means sitting near God. Worship of the Lord has a number benefits – (a) purifies the heart (b) generates harmonious vibrations (c) steadies the mind (d) purifies and ennobles the emotions (e) harmonizes the five sheaths (f) eventually leads to God realization. Upaasana is of two kinds.

Pratika Upaasana: Pratika refers to a symbol. Pratika Upaasana is, in fact, Saguna Upaasana – that is worshipping God with a form. Meditation on idols, pictures of Lord Rama, Krishna, Shiva, Rajarajeshwari come under this category.

Ahamgraha Upaasana: Refers to Nirguna Upaasana on formless, attribute less Akshara or transcendental Brahman.

According to Sri Ramanujacharya (Vishishtadvaita) the Supreme Being is not a featureless, attribute less, indefinite and vague presence unsuited for worship and adoration. The Supreme Person has an archetypal form and pervades everything as their in dweller. In Himself, that is in His Swaroopa, He partakes of the following fivefold characteristics –

Satyam: Refers to truth that is unconditioned and changeless.

Jnanam: Refers to permanently un-contracted and all-comprehending knowledge as

the Supreme subject

Anantam: Refers to infinity – not limited by categories of time, space etc. Ananda: Refers to immeasurable and unmitigated bliss

Amalatva: Refers to stainless or incorruptibility (i.e.) freedom the hold of Karma

These are His inherent attributes that form His Swaroopa (inherent nature). Basically, these attributes are manifested in Him in relation to finite beings. However, He has additional qualities referred to as His Swabhava which is unrelated to anything.

In addition to these, the Supreme Being has manifested in Him countless auspicious qualities (known as Kalyana Gunas) described as His Swabhava. The characteristics forming the Swabhava are identified with six major qualities (Bhagas) described in the Vishnu Purana as powers characterizing the Bhagavan (God). They are Jnana (omniscience), Bala (Omnipotence), Aishwarya (lordship), Shakti (creative power), Veerya (immutability), and Tejas (splendour). Sri Ramanujacharya identified the Upanisadic Supreme Brahman with Lord Narayana. In Gadya Trayam, one of the major and brilliant works of Sri Ramanujacharya, more of this can be read. I have made an attempt to provide a commentary on Gadya Trayam.


While Saguna Upaasana is concrete meditation, Nirguna Upaasana is abstract meditation. The nine fold path of devotion detailed above constitutes Saguna Upaasana. Chanting of OM with Atma Bhava will come under Nirguna Upaasana. Practitioners of Saguna and Nirguna Upaasana attain the same goal. However, practice of Nirguna Upaasana places more demands on the Sadhak. A person choosing this path will have to give up attachment to his body from the very beginning of his spiritual practice.

The Vedic Rishis have viewed the entire Universe as a manifestation of the Supreme Being. Earth, water, fire, air, space are all His manifestations. Going one step further these Rishis have nominated each one of these manifestations as a Devata (God).

“Ekam sath vipraa bahudha vadanti”

There is only one Supreme Being. However, He is being referred to by different names.

We must clearly understand that in our religion, which I will call it as Sanatana Dharma (and not as Hindu religion) we worship one Supreme Being (Parabrahman). We have been accused of polytheism (worshipping of many Gods) which is incorrect.

When the Rishis offered their prayers to Agni, Vaayu, Indra, Varuna, they are, in fact, offering their prayers to that one Supreme Being who is supporting all these powers. As such when we pray for a targeted objective such as a healthy life or for a success in business or studies, for reaching greater heights in spiritual progress we are still praying to that one Supreme Self. It is for this reason that a major portion of the Vedas have been presented in the form of mantras / prayers. These prayers have come in a number of different forms.


“Mananath traayate iti mantraha” Mantra is a sacred word with thought power. There are various kinds of Mantras.

Saattwika Mantras: These are chanted for illumination, supreme divine love and realization of God.

Raajasika Mantras: These are chanted for progeny and worldly prosperity. Taamasika Mantras: These are chanted for destroying or harming others.



Vedic Mantras Tantrika Mantras

Saattwika Raajasika Taamasika Saattwika Raajasika Saattwika

Puranic Mantras


Raajasika Taamasika

There are three different classes in Mantras. They are called the “three limbs of Mantras”

3 limbs of Mantras

Mantra Stotra Kavaca

(1) Mantra: As indicated earlier is, thought power, given in a few syllables or words for meditation.

(2) Stotra : Refers to a prayer to a deity. This can be in two forms

(a) General Stotras are prayers for general goodness that has to come from

God according to His will

(b)Specific Stotras refer to prayers offered from individuals seeking fulfilments of specific desires.

3) Kavaca: These mantras are used as armours for protection. A number of mantra armours are found in Puranas.

Japa:The importance of sound and proper intonation forms the basis for the effectiveness of mantras. Repetition of the holy incantation of the mantra is what is called Japa. The syllable “Ja” destroys birth and death cycle. The syllable “pa” destroys sins. That which destroys sins and puts an end to the birth-death cycle is called Japa. Japa can be classified as follows –





Mental Ajapa Japa repetition



Vaacika: Refers to oral repetition of a mantra. This is classified into two categories – Upaamsu and oral

Upaamsu: Refers to the oral repetition of a mantra without making any sound. This is when the Sadhak repeats the mantra and others sitting even nearby will not be able to hear the sound.

Oral: In this case the mantra is repeated and the sound may be heard with lip movement. This is when the Sadhak repeats the mantra within the hearing of others.

Manasika: Refers to mental Japa. Once again there are two categories.

Mental repetition: The Sadhak does a mental repetition of the mantra.

Ajapa Japa: Refers to meditation on the breath. The Sadhak performs a meditation on the spirit of the mantra and the meaning of the sacred word without a movement of the tongue or the lips.

You may have noticed that all Veda mantras conclude with the words – Om Shantih Shantih Shantih.

Shanti means peace. There is a reason behind repeating the word Shantih thrice. We usually encounter problems from three agencies.

1) Problems which we create for ourselves – such as physical ailments and mental stress.

2) Problems due to others

3) Problems due to nature and others that are beyond our control – such as rain, thunder, Fire


By uttering Om Shantih Shantih Shantih we are praying for protection from these agencies.

At this stage, it may be in order to try and get a better understanding of mantra and Japa. How are mantras constructed?

The basic principle underlying a mantra is that this Universe of ours is made up of different kinds of vibrations and energies working at different levels. We are familiar with the vibrations and energies that we experience in our everyday lives at the physical level – for example light, sound. However, the ancient Rishis have identified presence of vibrations and energies at the super-physical levels. They have also discovered that thoughts, emotions and even subtler worlds (Sukshma lokas), to which reference is made frequently in our religious literature are based on vibrations and energy plays. Further investigation by the Rishis revealed that not only all manifested worlds are based on various kinds of vibrations and energies but all these vibrations, in turn, are connected with one another and can be traced to one fundamental all embracing vibration. This primary vibration is the source of all other vibrations and is called “Naada”. The Ultimate Reality which is responsible for Naada is referred to as Shabda Brahman.




Another fact that has to be understood in the theory of mantra yoga is the existence of a relationship between vibrations, forms and consciousness.

An example is – light and sound vibrations are received by our sense organs (eyes and ears) and the form is recognized by our consciousness. When both these vibrations are cut off the form is not perceived on the physical plane.

A particular vibration will keep elements of a form together and the form will fall apart when the vibration ceases. These vibrations need not necessarily take place in the physical plane – but they may take place on different planes depending on the nature of the form and the life acting as the soul for it.

If vibration is related to both form and consciousness then we can use vibration to do two things – (a) use vibrations to produce different kinds of natural phenomena (b) bring about changes in consciousness.


Tantric literature gives a number of mantras which can be used to bring about some specific desired results. It just utilizes powers hidden in certain combination of sounds to yield the desired results. Mantra Yoga, on the other hand, utilizes powers hidden in certain combination of sounds for the un-folding human consciousness. Japa, which refers to physical or mental repetition of mantras produces vibrations in different planes and enables the Sadhak to reach deeper layers of consciousness. The eternal consciousness of the Supreme is everywhere and is beating all the time against the walls of our mind. It is our lack of sensitivity that is preventing us from recognizing it.

How are mantras constructed?

Mantra is composed of certain letters arranged in a definite sequence of sound of which the letters are the representative signs. Mantra must be intoned in the proper way according to Svara (rhythm) and Varna (sound). Bija–Akshara is a seed letter. It is a very powerful mantra. All Devatas have their own Bija-Akshara. Generally, the Bija- Mantra consists of a single letter. Sometimes it constitutes of several syllables. Though the Bija-Mantras have a significant inner meaning, they may not convey any on their face. The form of the Bija-Mantra is the form of the Devata signified by it. Examples of some Bija-Mantras are given below.

Five Mahabhutas (Ether, Air, Fire, Water and Earth)Ham, Yam, Ram, Vam, Lam Parabrahman Aum

Shiva Haum Mahalakshmi Shreem Saraswati Aim Ganesha Gam

Mantras are constructed by arranging the letters of the alphabet in certain combinations with necessary directions for their exact and correct pronunciation. Obviously, this can only be done by a person who knows the subtler properties of the different sounds. No one can predict the effect produced by a certain combination of sounds without a thorough investigation and experimentation. These experiments have to be performed both on the physical and super physical planes. It is then obvious only great Rishis who know the effects produced by sounds and their combinations are qualified to construct mantras and pass them on to Sadhakas for their Japa. The particular Rishi who has discovered or constructed the mantra after the necessary investigation is called the Rishi of that particular mantra. Naturally, the power of the mantra is dependent on the potency of the sound combinations used and the investigations on its pronunciation and effects carried out by the Rishi.


The crucial point to remember in regard to the Japa is that it is not a mechanical repetition of a name. What is required is complete focus of all the powers of the individual towards a definite end. One should remember that nothing can be gained in this world without an effort and nothing can be gained suddenly. You must be prepared for a long, persistent and earnest effort. It is a gradual process. There are no short cuts.

Gayatri Mantra

( Rig Veda 3.62.10)

The Japa (meditative utterance) of the Gayatri is an integral part of Sandhya, the daily practice of the Hindu. This mantra is capable of unfolding our spiritual faculties in a remarkable manner.

Understanding the nature of Gayatri:

In Hindu scriptures, the word Gayatri is used in 3 different senses. (a) The well known Gayatri mantra which is recited during Sandhya (b) For the meter or Chandas in which the above mantra is cast (c) For the Devi (or Goddess) who wields the power of this mantra.

At the start of creation when manifestation takes place, the primary differentiation is into Consciousness and Power (Shakti). This Shakti, in turn, differentiates further into innumerable powers corresponding to the multifarious functions which have to be performed in a manifested universe. Each power or Shakti is matched by a corresponding function of consciousness. These Shaktis and associated consciousnesses are the Devis and Devatas of Hinduism. Each function and power is given a particular name and form. The form given has a deep symbolic reference with a view to give a concept of the particular divine function or power.

It is said that the Rishis have recognized 330 million Devatas of various gradations who have their abodes in various Lokas or regions. Each Devata has a name or mantra for which he is the presiding deity. When a Sadhak chants the specific mantra he is, in fact, invoking the particular Devata or Shakti. The mind, occupied in the contemplation of such a deity, takes the shape of that deity or becomes as powerful and pure as the deity.

To effectively propitiate a deity two essential requirements exist –

(1) Bhakti or devotion. (2) Mantra Kriya.

Chanting a mantra without devotion becomes mechanical and is not beneficial. At the same time, when a Sadhak chants a mantra with devotion with neither the external form of worship (with knowledge of its esoteric meaning) nor internal worship (such as


sacrificing the ego or the burning of all desires) the chanting does not yield the full benefits.

That brings us to the question on what particular function that Gayatri Devi performs. The main function of Gayatri is the liberating function of the Supreme Brahman which frees the Jeevatmas from bondage. Bondage is brought about by the Jiva identifying itself with matter (Prakruti). Self realization starts when the Jeeva realizes the error in this cognition. The more we identify ourselves with matter or Prakruti, the more we become slaves of our vehicles and environment. The more we identify ourselves with Self or consciousness the more we free ourselves from Jada Jagat (material Universe) and our journey towards realizing Para Brahman begins.

This realization can take place at 3 levels – Intellectual, intuitional and Real. The word Real is being used here to convey Pratyaksha Jnana or realization. The 3 forms of Gayatri used in trikala- Sandhya (worship performed at 3 junctures of the day) are connected with these 3 stages.

At the early stages, it is possible to acquire some knowledge of Brahman and His functions in the Universe by studying various books. This knowledge is purely intellectual- just theoretical knowledge without being backed by any personal experience. Yet this is an important step for further progress.

This leads to the next step of knowing Brahman through intuition or spiritual perception. By long and continued practice of moral disciplines and the practice of Dhyana (concentration) and Upaasana (continuous thought of God) the mind of the seeker is purified and develops the power to receive the Divine. At this stage the seeker’s faith is strengthened by the glow of love and develops into Paraa Bhakti. His mind, without external simulation, goes towards God in place of sense objects.

The devotee then feels a great attraction towards the God and the feeling will start intensifying. By then the devotee is madly in love with the Supreme Self and is always in intimacy with the divine.

This kind of perception is indirect perception of the Reality. By now the Sadhak starts recognizing the immanent Reality through various forms. Sadhak then passes on to the more exalted stage of Parama Bhakti and continues to be in direct touch with the Supreme Self. And the Supreme Self is also the Universal Mind in which the knowledge of all the Vedas is contained. It can then be seen that the effective way of knowing the Vedas is through Gayatri or any other means which brings about this gradual unfoldment of our consciousness. For this reason Gayatri is referred to as Mother of the Vedas.


I have stated that the function of the Gayatri is to free the Jeeva from bondage and to wipe out the sins. It should not be understood that Gayatri Upaasana at the end of each day is a convenient way to destroy all sins committed during the day. It is to be understood that the Upaasana counteracts tendencies to commit sins or evil actions and strengthens spiritual prowess.

The Gayatri Mantra

Om Bhoorbhuvasuvah

Tat Saviturvarenyam Bhargo Devasya Dheemahi Dhiyo yo nah prachodayaath

To start with, we have to understand a couple of things –

(1) Gayatri mantra is not a pure mantra alone! It is, in fact, both a mantra and a prayer.

A pure mantra depends for its effectiveness upon the power of the mantra Shakti – the power inherent in the sound. In a few cases, the mantra may not appear to carry a meaning on the face of it. Gayatri mantra has inherent in it a tremendous power. This mantra is then combined with a prayer. Prayer, offered with intense devotion and feeling, once again, has a tremendous power. Thus when the power of the mantra is combined with the power of the prayer we then get a very potent tool for the unfoldment of our spiritual potentialities.

(2) The mantra can be viewed to consist of three well defined parts

a) The first part consists of the Pranava and Maha Vyahritis

b) The second part consists of Tat Savitur Varenyam Bhargo Devasya


c) The third part consists of Dhiyo Yo Nah Prachodayaat

Let us now consider the purpose of these three parts –

The purpose of the first part is to arouse the spiritual powers which are latent in the heart of every human being. The spiritual powers are transformed from a potential to an active form. The potency inherent in the sound of the first part does this function.

The purpose of the second part is to stimulate in the mind of the Sadhak, an intense resolve to come into contact with the consciousness of Savita, the presiding deity of our solar system.

The purpose of the third part is to bring about an attitude of self-surrender on the part of the Sadhak. This is essential for the flow of Divine grace (Kripa)


Pranava – OM

Pranava, the humming sound produced by the one lettered word OM is not an ordinary mantra. OM is formed by adding the three letters A,U,M. A represents the physical plane and the waking state, U represents the astral or mental plane and the dreaming state, M represents all the deep sleep state and that is unknown and the reach of the intellect even in our waking state. OM is regarded as the symbol of Parabrahman. It is indicated in the Yoga sutra – “ tasya vaachakah Pranavah”. In fact, the whole Mandukya Upanishad is a commentary on the Pranava. Chant OM for an hour and any other word also for one hour. You will feel the difference yourself.

OM is regarded to consist of eight limbs – Akara, Ukara, Makara, Ardhamatra, Nada, Bindu, Kala and Shakti. All triplets are considered to be represented by OM. Some examples are given below –


Brahma Saraswati Rajas Body Gross Jagrat Past

Sat Creation Prakruti Birth

Vishnu Lakshmi Sattva


Subtle Svapna Present

Chit Preservation Jivatma


Shiva Durga Tamas Soul Causal Sushupti Future Ananda Destruction Paramatma Death


It is impossible for an average reader to understand the occult significance and the meaning attached to the names referred to in these Mantras. The mantra Hrim is said to be the Sthula Pranava and the AUM as the Sukshma Pranava.

The Japa of Pranava is, by itself, an independent and powerful means of spiritual unfoldment . Its inclusion in the Gayatri mantra increases enormously the effectiveness of Gayatri.

Maha Vyaahriti Bhoorbhuvasuvah

What Pranava is to the Ishvara of our solar system the Maha Vyahritis are to the presiding deities of the lowest three planes in which we live in our everyday life – namely the physical, astral and mental planes. In the Hindu scriptures they are called Prithvi, Antariksha and Swarga. The three deities or Devatas of the three tattwas (principles) which predominate on the three planes are – Agni, Vaayu and Aditya. The three Maha Vyahritis are the Bija Mantras (seed mantras) of the three deities. It is true that Ishvara is Lord of all in the Universe. Yet the powers aroused by the Maha Vyahritis are indirectly derived from the Lord Himself. The general power of the Pranava is supplemented by the special powers of the Maha Vyahritis. A story from Chandogyopanishad throwing some light on the Maha Vyahritis is interesting.

Once Prajapati performed samyama (yogic meditation) on the nature of the Universe (Vishwa) and found that the essence of the physical world (Prithvi) was Agni, that of the Astral world (antariksha) is Vayu and for the lower heaven (swarga) is Aditya. On further meditation he found that the essence of Agni was Rig Veda, that for Vayu was Yajur Veda, and that for Aditya was Sama Veda. On further investigation he found that the essence of Rig Veda was Bhuh, for Yajur Veda it turned out to be Bhuvah and for Sama Veda it was Suvah. Prajapati then reflected on the Maha Vyahritis. Out of this reflection was born OM. As the veins pervade all leaves so does OM pervade all Vaak (sound)

Though these things belong to different categories, the story brings out the fact that that they are inter-related. The reason for this is – that all these are derived from the same Supreme Reality which differentiates in different ways to produce Shaktis of different types. In the same way the Maha Vyahritis may be considered as a differentiated form of Pranava.

From this story, we can understand that the Maha Vyahritis are the Bija mantras of the three Devatas Agni, Vaayu and Aditya. They are also the presiding deities for the lowest three planes in which we live our ordinary lives, namely the physical (Prithvi), astral


(antariksha), and mental (svarga). These are also the Devatas of the three principles or tattvas which dominate the three planes. We will come to that shortly

We now come to the second part of the Gayatri mantra –

Tat Savitur Varenyam Bhargo Devasya Dheemahi

In short it means – we meditate upon the divine light of that adorable Sun of spiritual consciousness which stimulates our power of spiritual perception. However, there is far more to it when you probe into it.

This is, in fact, an invocation to Savita for more light or more enlightenment. It is a call of the individual self to the Supreme Self for the ultimate goal in life.

And who is Savita?

This refers to the Sun in the Solar system. Our understanding of Sun is – that it is the source of all kinds of energies which are needed for life support in the Solar system. But the ancient Rishis have pointed out that the Sun’s role is not limited to being the centre and source for physical life only. In fact, it nourishes other aspects of life as well – physical, emotional, mental and spiritual. This Devata, this mighty and stupendous consciousness, is referred to as Surya Narayana. Hence, the reference to Savita is not just for the globe of fire that we see and feel but for the complete entity including the spiritual Sun of consciousness. One, who has realised the mystery behind the Sun, would have gone a long way in realising the mystery behind the cosmos. Hence, the Savita of the Gayatri mantra is a fitting objective for a Sadhak.

What is bharga? – the light of Savita.

The spiritual Sun is the very core of the spiritual consciousness. That spiritual consciousness is stepped down in the various lokas or planes. We contact this minimized versions of His consciousness at different levels by going into deeper layers of our own consciousness. However, the Ultimate reality is indivisible and changeless. When it appears as a limited version or conditioned consciousness of grades (bharga) at different planes, one must understand that we are just experiencing the reflection of the Ultimate Reality in our mind (chitta) which gives us an impression of different types of consciousness.

Why is this called Varenyam?

Varenyam in Sanskrit means “excellent”, and for that reason the most desirable and should be sought after. Naturally, from what has been written earlier, its ability to unfold our consciousness and take us on a path that will put an end to the cycle of births and deaths is the single most important reason for desiring it.



It is a sankalpa or assertion of determination. Now we come to the third part –

Dhiyo Yo Nah Prachodayaat

As explained earlier, the Sadhak surrenders himself completely. Complete self- surrender implies destruction of all forms of ego. This is an essential condition for the flow Divine Kripa. The word “dhiya” means Buddhi and “Prachodayaat” means may (He) unfold. The meaning works out as – May He unfold our Buddhi (consciousness)

One important point to be noted is that the prayer contained in the Gayatri mantra is for the benefit of all human beings. In the utter absence of any selfish motives lies the tremendous spiritual power of the mantra and its Sadhana.

Sacred thread and its importance

Japa of Gayatri is an integral part of Sandhya, the daily practice of Hindus. So it may be in order to understand the significance of the sacred thread.

Upanayana samskara means the discipline through which the third eye is opened. It is also known as Yagnopavita samskara, or the sacred thread ceremony. Normally, it is done to the boy at the age of around eight years by the parents. It is a great initiation given to the boy to maintain celibacy and study the Vedas. The mother is the first guru to the child, and he grows and follows his instructions. She instructs the boy to engage his mind in studying scriptures and meditate on the great Gayatri mantra which will be imparted to him on that day.

The Guru blesses the child with the sacred thread chanting the following mantra.

Om Yagnopavitam paramam pavitram prajapater yat sahajam purastat ayushyam agreyam pratimunca subhram yagnopavitam balam astu tejah

Meaning –

Om. This holy thread is supremely sacred; progenitors have blessed this tread. By wearing it over the body one attains longevity. The yagnopavitam or the sacred thread blesses with strength, radiance and illumination.

The sacred thread is a symbol of purity given during the ceremony of Gayatri initiation. It reminds the Sadhak of his responsibility to meditate and maintain purity.


There are three strands of in the sacred thread. The most important meaning of the three strands is – ida, pingali and susumna nadis. Through these the Kundalini energy manifests as prana and consciousness. The holy thread itself is the symbol of sacrifice of ego. For this reason, it is called the thread of sacrifice or yagnopavita

Apart from the three nadis the sacred thread also symbolises a number of triads. For example – Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva; Mahasaraswati, Mahalakshmi and Mahakali; the three gunas Sattva, Rajas and Tamas

Before we conclude, it is important to note that the famous Gayatri mantra is one of a class of mantras of its type. Every important deity has a Gayatri mantra. A few examples are given below.

1. Vishnu Gayatri

Om Narayana vidmahe vasudevaya dhimahi

tanno Vishnu prachodayat

We know Narayana; we meditate on Vasudeva; may Vishnu inspire that

(knowledge and meditation) of ours.

2. Shiva Gayatri

Om tatpurusaya vidmahe mahadevaya dhimahi tanno rudrah prachodayat

We know that Spirit (Purusha); we meditate on mahadeva; may Rudra inspire that (knowledge and meditation) of ours.

3. Daksninamurthi Gayatri

Om Dakshinamurtaye vidmahe dhyanasthaya dhimahi

tanno dhisah prachodayat

We know Dakshinamurthy; we meditate on (Him) who is plunged in meditation; may the Lord of thoughts (dhisah) inspire that (knowledge and meditation) of ours.

4. Ganesha Gayatri

Om Ekadantaya vidmahe vakratundaya dhimahi

tanno danti prachodayat

5. Rama Gayatri

Om Dasarathaye vidmahe Sitavallabhaya dhimahi tanno Rama prachodayat


6. Krishna Gayatri

Om Devakinandanaya vidmahe vasudevaya dhimahi

tanno Krishna prachodayat

7. Durga Gayatri

Om Katyayanyayai vidmahe Kanyakumari dhimahi

tanno Durga prachodayat

8. Lakshmi Gayatri

Om Mahadevyai cha vidmahe Vishnupatni cha dhimahi

tanno Lakshmi prachodayat

9. Saraswati Gayatri

Om Vagdevyai cha vidmahe Kamarajyaya dhimahi

tanno devi prachodayat

10. Surya Gayatri

Om Bhaskaraya vidmahe mahadyutikaraya dhimahi

tanno Aditya prachodayat

Maha Mrityunjaya Mantra

(Shukla Yajur Veda samhita 3.60; Rig Veda Mandala 7, Sukta (chapter) 59, Mantra 12)

Om Trayambakam Yajamahe Sugandhim Pushtivardhanam Urvarikam-iva Bandhanan Mrityor Mukshiya mamrtaat

Sugandhim Pushti vardhanam Trayambakam Yajamahe Urvarikamiva

means fragrance;

means nourishes well;

refers to Lord Shiva who has three eyes;

means we worship Him;

means even as the cucumber is severed from its bondage;


Mrityoha Bandhanath


Ma Amritat

means from the clutches of death;

means liberated;

means not to be released from immortality

We worship the three eyed Lord (Shiva) who is fragrant and who nourishes all beings well. May He liberate us from death even as the cucumber is severed from its bondage (to the creeper). May we not be released from immortality.

The meaning for the word Mrityunjaya is – to win over death. The mantra is prescribed for gaining a victory over death.

Victory over death does not mean that by a Japa of this mantra, we can prevent the deterioration of the body leading ultimately to death. When the Self (Jiva) departs from the body death results. No one can escape death. However, the Jiva does not die. It is immortal. It is the body that falls off. Jiva and body are two separate identities. By the grace of Eshwara a Jnani comes to realize this difference. To realize this difference, even when one is alive is a true victory over death. This mantra is a prayer to the Lord to grant him this knowledge.

People believe that the Japa of this mantra before stepping out of one’s house will provide protection from dangers.. When it is recited referring to someone who just died, it is believed, the dead person will attain Sadgati. It is also believed that reciting this mantra referring to someone who had an accidental death, will provide Atma Shanti.

Ganapati Mantra

(Yajur Veda 4.5)

Om Ganaanam tva Ganapatigm Havamahe Kavim Kavinam upamasrava stamam Jyeshtarajam Brahmanam brahmanaspatha Aanassrnvannutibhi seeda saadanam Maha Ganapathiye Namah Om







upama shravah tamam jyeshtarajam


Of all groups of Devas you

their leader

we worship

the visionary

of all visionaries

who has attained great fame through various similes who is the most exalted who shines in the hearts of


brahmanaam brahmanaspatah nah



aseeda saadanam

Maha Ganapatiye Namah

of the knowers of Brahman O Lord of Vedas



with all protective means

please sit

at the altar of fire ritual, in our heart to the Maha Ganapati

our Namaskaram – salutations

Through praises we worship you, the Lord of Vedas, the leader of all groups of Devas, the visionary of all visionaries, the one who has great fame through various similes, the most exalted of the knowers of Brahman and the one who shines in the hearts of devotees. Listening to our prayers of praise, please sit at the altar of fire ritual in our hearts, with all protective means.

It is customary to worship Lord Ganapati before starting on any auspicious venture. It is believed that Lord Ganapati will remove any obstacles that may come in the way. For this reason, He is referred to as Lord Vigneshwara. However, in this mantra He is being looked upon, not just as a Devata, but as Parameshwara Himself. This is so because He is being addressed by the word Brahmanaspate – meaning “O Lord Brahma, the Veda Shastra”. The word Brahma here refers to the body of knowledge known as Vedas. And He is the Pati or Lord for it. Hence while addressing Him as Brahmanaspate, He is being referred to as the Lord of the Vedas – the role of Parameshwara.

We worship you, Parameshwara, the Lord of Ganas, all living beings and even of the Devas – being their creator and protector.

Shanti Mantras

When ever we undertake a task, it is essential that we approach it with the right mental attitude. This preparation will greatly enhance the chances of success in our undertaking. It is for similar reasons that we have a number of Prakaras (enclosures) in our temples. As the devotee goes round each Prakara , his concentration improves and his mind gradually gets focused on the deity he is going to worship. The chanting of Shanti mantras, before the recitation of the Vedas helps the Rishis to gradually focus on the Vedas they intend studying. The practice is to recite the Shanti mantras before reciting holy texts such as Upanishads and Sooktas

All Veda mantras are concluded by uttering Om Shantih, Shantih, Shantih.


Om is the symbol and representative of Brahman. It is uttered for securing all-round auspiciousness. Shanti refers to peace and tranquility. Generally, the troubles that we normally face fall into three categories (also referred to as Trivida Taapa )–

The problems are caused by us. Illnesses – physical and mental, suffered by us are examples of this kind. They are referred to as Aadhyaatmika

Problems caused due to others. They are called Aadhibhautika

Problems caused due to nature – Rain, thunder, fire are examples of this kind. They are

called Adhidaivika

By uttering Shantih three times, we are praying for protection from them. Let us now

have a look at a few Shanti mantras. Shanti mantra-1

Om Saha naavavatu, Sahanau Bhunaktu Saha Veeryam karavaavahai,

Tejasvi Navadheetamastu Ma Vidvishavahai

Om Shantih Shantih Shantih

This is a prayer offered from both the teacher and the student at the time of the student commencing his education. The prayer is for the successful completion of the education without any obstacles or short comings.

This occurs as the Shanti Mantra for the Katha, Svetasvatara and the Maha Narayana Upanishads

Om, May He protect us both (teacher and the taught). May He cause us both to enjoy the bliss of Mukti. May we both exist to find out the true meaning of the scriptures. May our studies be fruitful. May we never quarrel with each other. Let there be three fold peace (Shantih, Shantih, Shantih).

Shanti mantra-2

Om Sham No Mitrah Sham Varunah, Sham No Bhavatvaryamaa Sham Na Indro Brihaspatih, Sham No Vishnururukramah Namo Brahmane, Namaste Vayo, Twameva Pratyaksham Brahmasi, Twameva Pratyaksham Brahma Vadishyami

Ritam Vadishyami, Satyam Vadishyami Tanmamavatu, Tadvaktaramavatu Avatu Mam, Avatu Vaktaram

Om Shantih, Shantih, Shantih


This is the Shanti Mantra for the Taittiriya Upanishad.

As already explained, at the start of creation when manifestation takes place, the primary differentiation is into Consciousness and Power (Shakti). This Shakti, in turn, differentiates further into innumerable powers corresponding to the multifarious functions which have to be performed in a manifested universe. Each power or Shakti is matched by a corresponding function of consciousness. These Shaktis and associated consciousnesses are the Devis and Devatas of Hinduism.

This whole world of ours is governed by the play of the various Shakties. Shakties governing activities in the visible or gross world are each considered a Devata. Similarly, Shakties governing activities in the subtle world (not visible to the naked eye) are also regarded as Devatas (deities). They are referred to as Abhimani Devata (guardian spirit). Each of the Devatas in turn governed an activity in the physical world and a faculty of the human being.

For example, Aryama is considered to be the Abhimani Devata for Sun in physical world and the eye of the human being. Mitra is considered as the Abhimani Devata for the Day in the physical world and the Prana of the human being. The message for us is that we should learn to live with these powerful Shakties governing aspects in the world. This Shanti mantra is a prayer to the various Devatas to protect us.

The deities invoked here may be regarded as the delegate among whom the Supreme distributes some of His powers. They might be considered as manifestations of the One who lives behind them. This may also be understood from explanation given above – that the Supreme Shakti differentiates into innumerable powers corresponding to the multifarious functions which have to be performed in a manifested universe.

Man is often considered as a Universe in epitome. Similarly, the various deities that rule over the cosmic functions are also conceived to have their corresponding rulership in the personality of the man. This has been the observation of the ancient Rishis.

The meaning of the verse is given below –

May Mitra, Varuna, Aryaman, Indra, Brhaspati and all pervading Vishnu be propitious to us and grant us welfare and bliss. I bow down to Brahman in loving reverence. O Vayu, I bow down to thee in adoration. Thou verily art Brahman perceptible. I shall declare (vadishyami) thou art right; Thou art the true and the good. May that Universal being Vayu preserve me. May He preserve the teacher. May Brahman protect me. May He protect my teacher.

Om Shantih, Shantih, Shantih.




Aryaman Indra

He is the guardian spirit of Praanavrtti or the in-breathing and the day. He calls men to activity, sustains Earth and Sky, and beholds all with un-winking eyes.

Governs the night and the breathing out. He is commonly associated with Mitra, and is celebrated as the king of Gods and the Lord of the Universe. In the hymns several grand attributes and functions are ascribed, such as presiding over water in the sea, upholding Heaven and Earth, possessing extraordinary power and wisdom, hating falsehood, seizing transgressors with his Paasha (noose), pardoning sin, and bestowing immortality

He is regarded as the regent of the Sun and of Eyes. He is chief of the


Indra is the governor of the atmosphere and the Upper regions. He presides over the Gods. He has vanquished a number of demons and is considered a benefactor of the man. The Vedas praise his power and energy. He is frequently invoked. He governs power and hands of the man.

BrhaspatiHe is the God of wisdom and eloquence. For this reason he is deemed the genius of speech and intellect. He is the deity in whom piety and religion are personified.


He is identified with the Supreme all-pervading Reality – Parabrahman. He is often invoked with Indra. He is the chief of the Adityas. He is the guardian spirit of the feet.

The various deities attempt to thwart efforts of an ordinary or ignorant man in gaining Self-Knowledge or realization of the Atman. These are the various tests that a man is required to undergo before he can be proved to be a worthy candidate for this knowledge. Man who has not realized Atman is like an animal for the deities. These peace invocations are meant to win the blessings of the gods to make the course of the Sadhak smooth and easy.

Shanti mantra-3

Om Bhadram Karmebhih Shrunuyama Devah Bhadram Pashyema – Akshabhir- Yajatrah Sthirairangais – Tushtuvam – Sastanubhih Vyashema Deavahitam Yadayuh

Swasti Na Indro Vriddhashravah Swasti Nah Pusha Visvavedah


Swasti Nah Tarkshyo Arishtanemih Swasti No Brhaspatirdadhatu

Om Shantih, Shantih, Shantih.

Good is one thing and pleasant is quite another thing. These two, prompt entirely different courses of action from us. They also yield different end results. In life we face this choice very often. The wise having examined both distinguish one from the other. With great care the wise man selects the good to the pleasant. The foolish driven by greed and desires opt for the pleasant. The Katha Upanishad presents a discussion on this topic in the form of a dialog between the King of Death and a young sage Nachiketa.

To enable us make wise choices as we sail through our lives, we require a firm control on our Indriyas. This mantra is a prayer seeking Divine help in choosing the right from the wrong.

The meaning for the mantra is given below –

Om. O worshipful ones (Devatas) may our ears hear what is auspicious. May we, who are proficient in the Yagna karmas, see what is auspicious. May we sing your praise, live our allotted span of life in perfect health and strength. May Indra extolled in the scriptures by ancient teachers, the all-knowing Pushan (Surya, the Sun), Tarkshya (Garuda, Lord Vishnu’s mount) who saves us from all harm, Brhaspati who protects our spiritual lustre, vouchsafe prosperity in our study of the scriptures and practice of truths contained therein.

OM Shantih, Shantih, Shantih

Shanti mantra-4

Om Tacham yoraavrnimahe, Gaatum yagnayaa Gaatum Yagna pataye Daivee svastirastu nah Svastirmaanushebhyaha Oordvam jigaatu bheshajam Sham no astu dvipade sham chatushpade

Om Shantih, Shantih, Shantih

Sages from the Vedic times treated life like a great Yagna. . This is a prayer for the successful completion of this Yagna. Every created object is for this Yagna. This prayer is for the well being of all of them

We pray and worship the Supreme for the welfare of all. We pray for the successful completion of this Yagna. We pray for the welfare of those performing the Yagna. May the Devatas do well to us (svastih astu) and for the whole mankind. May the trees and


plants (bheshajam) grow up to be tall (oordvam jigatu). May the welfare of bipeds (dvipade; – two footed animals) be taken care of and they are happy. May the welfare of quadrupeds (chatushpade; four – footed animals) living with us in this world be taken care of.

Shanti mantra-5

Om Poornamadah Poornamidam Poornat Poornamudachyate Poornasya Poornamadaya Poornamevavasishyate

Om Shantih, Shantih, Shantih

This verse serves as the Shanti mantra for two Upanishads – the Brihadaranyaka and Isaavaasya Upanishad.

All living beings, both movable and immovable, came out of the Supreme Being. He, who sees all beings in the Supreme Self, and the Supreme Being in all beings, hates no one. Hence loving the Prakruti and other Jivas in this world is as good as loving the Supreme Being.




Poornam Poornath Poornam Udachyate Poornasya Poornam


Poornam eva avasishyate When translated –

The Supreme Being, Brahman is whole; complete; Full

This Prakruti

is whole; complete; Full

From completeness (from Supreme Being) completeness (Prakruti which is complete) comes-forth

From completeness

completeness taken away completeness alone remains

That is whole; this is whole;

From that whole this whole came

From that whole, if this whole is removed What remains is a whole.


The meaning is –The Brahman is full – complete. The whole Prakruti is also full – complete. From that Brahman, who is complete, has come this world of beings, Prakruti. However, from that full (Brahman) when this full (Prakruti) is taken out – what remains is still full. Om Shantih, Shantih, Shantih

These Shruti mantras are short and profound.

Incidentally, for those who are mathematically inclined, this verse also serves as a

definition for Infinity.

Shanti mantra-6

Asato maa sadgamaya Tamaso maa jyotir gamaya Mrityormaa amritangamaya Om Shantih, Shantih, Shantih

Asato maa sadgamaya

Asat refers to Unreal, non-existence, untruth, ignorance

Tamaso maa jyotir gamaya

Tamasaha refers to – darkness or ignorance; Maa refers to me ;

Jyotihi refers to light or enlightenment; Gamayahameans lead me.

The meaning of this stanza is – Lead me from the darkness of ignorance to a state of enlightenment.

Mrityor maa amritam gamaya

Mrtyoha refers to – death; Maa refers to me ;

Amritam means immortality;

Gamayaha means lead me.

The meaning of this stanza is – Lead me from death to immortality

Lead me from the unreal to the real Lead me from darkness to light Lead me from death to immortality

This is a prayer for the Sadhak whose sights are clearly set at higher levels, who is seeking enlightenment, and who wants to escape from the bondage of Samsara.


Shree Sooktam

Sooktas come under the category of Stuti Slokas. The word Sookta is from Su + Ukta meaning very well told. Shree Sooktam is in praise of Goddess Maha Lakshmi – the consort of Lord Narayana. This Sooktam is a compilation of a number of Sooktas available in Vedas and Puranas. Sadhaks chant this Sookta having complete faith that the grace of Maha Lakshmi will be bestowed on them.

1. Om Hiranyavarnam Harinim suvarna rajatasrajam Chandram Hiranmayim Lakshmim Jaatavedo ma aavah

O, Agni Deva (Jaataveda)! Please invoke on my behalf the Goddess Maha Lakshmi; the Goddess who shines with the complexion of gold (Hiranyavarnam), destroyer of all sins (Harinim), who wears silver and gold ornaments (suvarna rajatasrajam), blooming like the moon (Chandram), who is the embodiment of all wealth – to come here and shower her grace on me

2. Thaam ma aavaha jatavedo Lakshmi manapagaamineem Yasyaam hiranyam vindeyam kaamaswam purushaanaham

O, Agni Deva invite Maha Lakshmi by whose grace I received gold, cows, horses, friends and relatives to come here and never leave me (anapagaamineem).

3. Ashva poorvaam radha madhyaam hasti naada prabodhineem Shriyam devimupahvaye sreermaa devirjushatam

I invoke (upahvaye) Sreedevi (Shriyam devi), who has a line of horses in front (Ashva poorvaam), a series of chariots in the middle (radha madhyaam), who is heralded with the trumpeting of elephants (hasti naada prabodhineem) to come and shower her grace and reside happily within me (maa jushatam).

4. Kaam sosmitaam hiranyaprakaram aardhram jwalantheem truptaam

tharpayantheem Padme sthtitaam padma varnaam thaam upahvaye sriyam

I hereby invoke (upahvaye) that Shri (Lakshmi) who always has a pleasant smile on her face (smitaam); lives in a golden fort (hiranyaprakaram), is full of mercy (aardhram), is divinely resplendent (jvalantheem), is the embodiment of absolute bliss (truptaam), grants bliss (tharpayantheem), is seated on the lotus (Padme’ sthitaam) and is beautiful like the lotus (padma varnaam).


5. Chandram prabhasam yashasa jvalanteem shriyam loke deva jushtam udaaraam

taam padminimim sharanam aham prapadye alakshmir me nashyatam tvaam vrne

I take refuge at the feet of Sri Lakshmi, who is beautiful like the moon (Chandram), effulgent in a divine glow (prabhasam), who is blazing with renown (yashasa jvalanteem), is adored by the gods (deva jushtam), is full of mercy (udaaraam), wears a lotus in her hand (padminim). I surrender to that Sri Devi (sharanam aham prapadye) and pray (vrne ) that she remove poverty from me (alakshmir nashyatam).

6. Adhityavarne tapaso adhijaatho vanaspathisthava vrukshodha bilwah,

Tasya phalaani tapasa nudanthu mayaantharayascha baahya alakshmi.

O Devi, resplendent like the Sun (Adhityavarne) you have created (adhijaatho) with your penance (tapasa) the bael tree (bilwah vruksha), considered as the king of the forest (vanaspathi). The fruits of this tree (tasya phalani) created by you destroy the inner ignorance (maya antharayah) and the inauspicious tendencies (alakshmi) rising due to the external senses (baahya).

7. Upaithu maam deva sakhah keerthishcha maninaa saha,

Pradhur bhoothosmi rashtresmin keerthim vruddhim dadhathu me.

O Lakshmi, may Kubera (deva sakhah), the god of wealth and the lord of fame (keerthishcha) follow me (upaithu) with all the wealth (maninaa saha). Through your grace, I am born (pradhur bhoothah asmi) in this country (asmin rashtre) that has a heritage of wealth. Bestow (dadhathu) on me fame (keertim) and prosperity (ridhim).

8. Kshutpipaasa malaam jyeshtaamalakshmim nashayamyaham,

Abhoothim asamrudheem cha sarvam nirnudha me grahat.

I shall destroy (nashayamyaham), Jyeshta Devi (Alakshmi), the elder sister to Lakshmi, the embodiment of inauspiciousness and evil such as hunger and thirst (Kshutpipaasa malaam). O Lakshmi, drive out (nirnudha) from my abode (me grahat.) all misfortunes and poverty (sarvam abhoothim asamrudheem).


9. Gandhadwaaram duradharsham nithyapushtaam kareeshineem, Eshwaree sarva bhoothaanam thaamehopahvaye shriyam.

I invoke Maha Lakshmi (thaam shriyam) who is always sweet smelling (Gandhadwaara) , who can never be defeated (duradharsham), who gives health and prosperity (nithyapushtam), who has everything (kareeshineem) and who is the goddess (eshwareem) of all beings (sarva bhoothaanam) to come and grace (upahvaye) me here.

10. Maanasah kamamaakuthim vachah sathya masheemahi, Pashunaam roopamannasya mayi sreeh shrayathaam yashah.

O Sri Devi (Sreeh)! I would like to enjoy the noble desires (Kaamam), the happiness (aakutim) that arises from within me (manasah), the truth (satyam) in my speech (vachah) and the happiness derived due to an abundance of cattle (pashunaam) and food (annasya) at my disposal. May I gain (shrayatam) fame (yashah).

11. Kardamená praja-bhutá mayi sambhava kardama Sriyam vásaya me kule mátaram padma-máliním

O, Maharshi Kardama (Kardama), may Maha Lakshmi, who was born as a daughter in your house (praja-bhuta), grace me with her presence

(mayi sambhava). Make mother (mataram) Sri Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth (sriyam) who always adorns a garland of lotus flowers (padma-malinim), to have her abode (vasaya) forever in my family (me kule).

12. Apah srujantu snigdháni Chiklíta vasa me grihe Ni cha devím mátaram shriyam vásaya me kule

Sage Chiklita, you are the son of Sri Maha Lakshmi. Request Her to provide (srujantu) us with holy water (apah) and good food (snigdhani). Please come live (vasa) in my (me) house (grihe). Please request mother (mataram) devi (devim) Sri Devi (shriyam) to live (vasaya) in our (me’) family (kule’) forever.

13. Aardhraam pushkarineem pushteem pingalaam padma malineem Chandraam hiranmayeem Lakshmim jatavedo ma avah

O Agni deva (jatavedah), please invoke (avah) for me (ma’) Maha Lakshmi (Lakshmim), who is full of mercy (aardhraam), who is seated on a lotus (pushkarineem), who is the presiding deity for nourishment (pushteem) for all, who has a complexion of Kum Kum (pingalaam), who wears a garland of lotuses (padma malineem), pleasant like a moon (Chandram) and wears gold ornaments (hiranmayeem)


14. Aardhram yah karineem yashtim suvarnaam hema maalineem Suryam hiranmayeem Lakshmim jatavedo ma’ avah

O Agni Deva (jatavedah), invoke for me (ma’ avah) the goddess Maha Lakshmi (Lakshmim) who is full of mercy (aardhram), is very solemn (karineem), carries an ensign of authority (yashtim), has a beautiful complexion (suvarnaam), is resplendent like the Sun (Suryam) and who is radiant wearing golden ornaments (hema maalineem)

15. Thaam ma avaha jathavedo Lakshmi manapagaamineem, Yasyaam hiranyam prabhootham gaavo dasyoswaan vindheyam purushaanaham

O Agni Deva (jathavedo), be pleased to bless me (avah) so that goddess Sri Devi (thaam Lakshmi), by whose grace (yasyaam) I will get countless (prabhootham) gold (hiranyam), cattle (gaavah), maidservants (dasyah), horses (aswaan) and servants (purushaan) will never leave me (me’ anapagaamineem).

16. Yah suchih prayatho bhoothwa juhu yaadajya manvaham Sriyah panchadasharcham cha srikaamah satatam japeth

He, who (yah) prays for the grace of Sri Maha Lakshmi (srikaamah), should be pure in body (suchih), control his senses (prayatah), perform homa (juhu yaath) everyday (anvaham) with ghee (aajyam), and (cha) always (satatam) chant (japeth) the fifteen mantras (panchadasharcham) of Sri Devi (sriyah) given above.

17. Anandah, Kardamashaiva Chikleeta ithi vishruthah,

Rishayasthe thrayah proktha swayam sreereva devatha

The three (thrayah) famous (vishrutha) – Ananda, Kardama, and Chikleeta are the Rishis (proktha) and Sri Maha Lakshmi herself (swayam) is the Devata for this Sookta.

18. Padmanane padma ooru, padamakshi padamasambhave,

Twam maam bhajaswa padamakshi yena sowkhyam labhamyaham O Goddess who has a face beautiful like a lotus (padmanane), thighs like a lotus (padma ooru), eyes like a lotus (padmakshi) and who was born out a lotus (padmasambhave), please grant me (twam bhajaswa) all that will you think will give me a good life.

19. Aswa-daayee go-dayee dhana-dayee maha dhane,

Dhanam me jushathaam devi sarva kaamamscha dehi me’

O Maha Lakshmi (devi), goddess of wealth (maha dhane), who grants horses (asva-daayee), cows (go-daayee)and wealth (dhana daayee) please give me (me’) that wealth (dhanam) which will give me (dehi


me’) the same happiness (jushathaam) as when all your wants (sarva kaamaan) are fulfilled.

20. Puthra, pouthra, dhanam dhaanyam hasthyaswadigave’ radham, Prajaanaam bhavasi maataa ayushmantham karothu maam.

You are the mother (maataa) of all people (prajaanaam). Please grant me sons (putra), grandsons (pouthra), wealth (dhanam) and grains (dhaanyam). Also grant me elephants (hasti), horses (asvah), cows (gave’), chariots (radham) and others. Grant me a long life (ayushmantham karothu).

21. Dhanamagnirdhanam vaayurdhanam sooryo dhanam vasuh Dhanamindro Brhaspati varunam dhanamashnute

All the Devatas like Agni, Vaayu, Surya, Vasus (eight Vasus), Indra, Brhaspati, Varuna enjoy their wealth only due to your grace.

22. Chandraabhaam Lakshmeeshaanam Sooryaabhaam shriyameeshwarim

Chandra sooryaagni varnaabham Sri Maha Lakshmi upasmahe’

I pray and meditate (upasmahe) on that Sri Maha Lakshmi, who shines like the pleasant Moon (Chandraabhaam), who is the inner strength for all the Devatas (eeshaanaanam) and who is resplendent like the Sun (sooryaabham) . She is Sri devi (shriyam). She is Eeshwari. The splendour of the three Devatas Sun, Moon and the Agni is due to Sri Devi.

23. Vainatheya somam piba somam pibatu vrthraha

Somam dhanasya somino mahyam dadhatu sominah

O, Garuda deva (son of Vinata, hence Vainatheya) drink soma rasa. May Indra, who killed the Vrthrasura also drink the soma rasa. I intend performing Soma yaga (sominah). Hence, please grant (dadhatu) me (mahyam) plenty of wealth (dhanasya somam).

24. Na krodho na cha matsaryam na lobho naa shubha mathih, Bhavanthi krutha punyanam bakthaanaam Sri suktham japeth sada.

The devotees who do holy deeds (krutha punyanam), never get angry (krodhah na bhavantih), are never jealous (matsaryam), never stingy (lobhah) and they will never think of bad deeds (na ashubha mati). And for the devotion to grow, they should often (sada) chant (japeth) Sri Sooktam.


25. Varshanthu te vibhavari dhivo abhrasya vidyuthah,

Rohanthu sarva beejanyava brahma dvisho jahi.

O goddess Sri Devi, by your grace may dark clouds accompanied with lightning (abhrasya vidyuthah) provide us rain (varshantu) day (dhivo) and night (vibhavari). May all the seeds (sarva beejaani) germinate well (apa rohantu) and grow. May all the people who abuse god (brahma dvisha) be eliminated (jahi).

26. Padmapriye, padmini, padmahasthe, padmalaye, padmadalaayathakshi.

Viswapriye Vishnu manonukoole tat paada padmam mayi sannidatwa

She who is fond of the lotus flower (Padmapriye), was born in the lotus flower (padmini), holds a lotus in her hand (padmahasthe), lives in the lotus flower (padmalaye), has broad eyes like the petal of the lotus flower (padmadalaayathakshi), very dear to entire world (Viswapriye) and who conducts herself in an endearing manner to her Lord Sri Maha Vishnu (Vishnu manonukoole) –that Sri Devi please place your (tat) lotus feet (paada padmam) on me (mayi) and grace me (sannidatwa).

27. Ya sa padmasanastha Vipula katitati padma pathrayathakshi, Gambheera varthanabhi sthanabhara namitha shubra vastottareeya,

Lakshmeer divya gajendrai mani gana khachithai snaapitaa hema kumbhai,

Nithyam sa padmahastha mama vasathu gruhe sarva mangalya yuktha

Let that Goddess Lakshmi, who (Ya) is seated on a Lotus (padma asanastha), has large (vipula) hips (katitati), has wide eyes like the petal of the Lotus flower (padma patra aayata akshee), has a deep navel (gambheera aavartha nabhih) , who is slightly bent because of her heavy busts (sthanabhara namitha), who wears divine cloths and upper cloth (shubra vastra uttareeya), who takes bath (snaapitha) in holy waters taken in golden vessels (hema kumbhaih) studded with precious stones (mani gana khachitaih) and poured by divine elephants (divya gajendrai), who holds a lotus flower in her hand (padma hasta) and who possess everything that is auspicious (sarva mangalya yukta) – always live in my house (mama vasathu gruhe).


28. Lakshmeem ksheera samudra raja thanayam Sri rangadhaameswareem,

Dasi bhootha samastha deva vanithaam Lokaika deepaankuraam, Sriman manda kataksha labdha vibhava brhmendra gangaadharaam

Twaam trilokyakutumbineem sarasijaam vande Mukunda priyaam

Salutations (vande) to Goddess Lakshmi, who is – the source of all wealth (Lakshmeem), daughter of the king of the ocean of milk (ksheera samudra raja thanayam), is the ruling deity for the holy city of Sri Rangam (Sri rangadhaameswareem), is served by all the deva maidens (Dasi bhootha samastha deva vanithaam), who is the single source of light for the entire world (Lokaika deepaankuraam), whose mere sidelong glances have raised important deities such as Lord Brahma, Lord Shiva and Lord Indra to exalted statuses (Sriman manda kataksha labdha vibhava brhmendra gangaadharaam), for whom all the beings in the world constitute the family (trilokyakutumbineem), who arises in lotus ponds (sarasijaam), who is the beloved of Lord Mukunda (Mukunda priyam).

29. Siddha Lakshmir moksha Lakshmir jayalakshmi saraswathi,

Sri lakshmir vara Lakshmi cha prasanna mama sarvada

By merely thinking about you, as Siddha Lakshmi you fulfill desires, as Moksha Lakshmi you grant Kaivalya, as Jayalakshmi you grant victory, as Sri Lakshmi you grant wealth, as Vara Lakshmi you grant boons. May you be always pleased with me.

30. Varankushau pashamabheethi mudraam, Karai vahantheem , Kamalasanasthaam, Baalaarka koti prathibhaam trinethraam, Bajehamadyam jagadeeshwareem thwaam

The Goddess Sri Lakshmi is Aadi Shakti. She is Jagadeeshwari. Her two palms indicate Vara and Abhaya mudras. She also holds the weapons – paasha and ankusha. She shines with the effulgence of innumerable rising Suns. I offer my prayers to the Goddess.

31. Sarva mangala Mangalye, Shive, Sarvaartha saadhake,

Sharanye Trayambake, Devi narayani namosthuthe

narayani namosthuthe, narayani namosthuthe

Among the auspicious ones you are the most auspicious (Sarva mangala Mangalye). You are the Devi who grants everything that is auspicious (Shive). You grant everything that is desirable (Sarvaartha saadhake). You are the deity most suitable for everyone to take refuge


under(Sharanye). O Goddess Narayani with three eyes (Trayambake) I salute (namah asthu) thee (The’).

32. Sarasijanilaye sarojahaste dhavalataraamshuka gandhamaalya shobhe’

Bhagavati Harivallabhe’ manogne tribhuvanabhootikari praseeda mahyam

Sri Maha Lakshmi stays on the lotus flower (Sarasijanilaye). She carries a lotus in her hand (sarojahaste), wears auspicious white cloths (dhavalatara amshuka) and a sweet smelling garland (gandhamaalya). O Bhgavathi, consort of Sri Maha Vishnu (Harivallabhe’), who fulfills the desires of all (manogne), who protects all the three worlds (tribhuvana bhootikari) – bless me with your grace.

33. Om Vishnupatneem khamaam Deveem Maadhaveem Maadhavapriyaam

Vishnoh priyasakheem Deveem namaam Atchutavallabhaam

O Maha Lakshmi, consort of Maha Vishnu (Vishnupatneem), Bhoodevi (khamaam Deveem), you are present in the Tulasi plant (Maadhaveem). Devi is very dear to Madhava (Maadhavapriyaam), Sri Vishnu (Vishnu priyasakheem). I salute (namaame) the Devi who is always with Sri Maha Vishnu (Atchuta vallabhaam).

34. Om Maha Lakshmi cha vidmahe, Vishnu patnee cha dheemahi, Thanno Lakshmi prachodayath

Let us know about Maha Lakshmi. For that reason let us meditate on Her, who is the consort of Sri Maha Vishnu. May Goddess Lakshmi help us in this.

35. Sreevarchasyamaayushyamaarogya maavidhaath pavamaanam maheeyatheh

Dhanam Dhaanyam pashum bahuputralaabham shatasamvatsaram deerghamaayuh

Runa rogaadi daaridya paapa kshuda pamrutyavah

Bhaya shoka manasthaapaa nashyantu mama sarvadaa.

O Maha Lakshmi, bless me with Varchassu, and life with no short comings (aayushyam). May winds (pavamaanam), that will always (sarvadaa) give me good health (aarogyam), be blowing (maheeyathe). May I get wealth (dhanam), grain (dhaanyam), cattle (pashum), many sons (bahu putra laabham) and a life (deerghamaayuh) of hundred years (shata samvatsaram). May I not be subjected to – debts (runam) , ill health (rogam) , poverty (daaridyam), hunger (Kshuda), sudden death


(apamrtuyavah), fear (bhayam), grief (shokam) and mental worries (manah taapah)

36. Shriye jaata shriya aniryaya shriyam vayo jaritrubhyo dadhaatu Shriyam vasaanaa amrutatwamaayan bhajanti sadyah savitaa vidadhyoon

Those who approach Sri Devi (shriya aniryaya) will be blessed with abounding riches (shriye jaatah). Wealth (shriyam) and longevity (vayah jaritrubhyh) will be presented (dadhaatu). Enjoying great wealth (shriyam vasaanaa) they will reach a state that is beyond death (amrutatwamaayan). In a short time (sadyah) they will obtain (bhajanti) fame (savitaa) and victory (vidadhyoon).

37. Shriya yevynam tatchriyaamaadadhaati

santatamruchaa vashatkrutyam sandhattam sandheeyate prajayaa pashubhih Ya yevam vedaa

All that is good is due to Sri Devi Herself. Those that realise this will reach Sri Devi. One must always perform Yaaga accompanied with proper mantras. Those that do this will be blessed with the wealth of progeny and cattle.

Om Maha Lakshmi cha vidmahe, Vishnu patnee cha dheemahi, Thanno Lakshmi prachodayath

Om Shantih, Shantih, Shantih

Let us know about Maha Lakshmi. For that reason let us meditate on Her, who is the consort of Sri Maha Vishnu. May Goddess Lakshmi help us in this

Purusha Sooktam

(Rig Veda 10.8.90)

The word Purusha here refers to the Supreme Being – Parama Purusha, the Supreme Purusha; Purushottama, the best among the Purushas; He is Sriman Narayana. He is the source and basis of all creation.

The Purusha Sookta finds a place in all the Vedas, with slight variations. Though the original Purusha Sookta mantra is found in Rig Veda, it also occurs both in Shukla Yajur Veda (in Vajaneya Samhita) and Krishna Yajurveda (Taittiriya Samhita). With minor differences it is found in Saama and Atharva Vedas also. This shows its supreme importance. Detailed instructions are available on the use of this Sutra in fire Sacrifices.

Among the Veda mantras, Purusha Sooktam stands out for its mantra Shakti. It is regularly chanted in temples, at home – while performing homa or offering prayers to


God at home. Tradition has it that the Sookta is to be recited daily along with Bhagavad Gita or Vishnu sahasranama chanting.

Basically, the Vedas are divided into three major sections – 1. Samhita deals with prayers by the Devatas

2. Brahmana deals with details regarding yagas

3. Aranyakas Examines fundamental truths

We notice that the Purusha Sookta addresses all these three sections. It starts with the praise of the Supreme Being, Lord Narayana, referred to as Purusha. It then tells us that this world of beings has emerged as a result of the fruits of His sacrifice. It then goes on to tell about the ways and means to overcome ignorance and realise God. Hence, this Sookta may be regarded as a condensed Shastra.

Om Tacham yoraavrnimahe, Gaatum yagnayaa Gaatum Yagna pataye Daivee svastirastu nah Svastirmaanushebhyaha Oordvam jigaatu bheshajam Sham no astu dvipade sham chatushpade

Om Shantih, Shantih, Shantih

Sages from the Vedic times treated life like a great Yagna. . This is a prayer for the successful completion of this Yagna. Every created object is for this Yagna. This prayer is for the well being of all of them

We pray and worship the Supreme for the welfare of all. We pray for the successful completion of this Yagna. We pray for the welfare of those performing the Yagna. May the Devatas do well to us (svastih astu) and for the whole mankind. May the trees and plants (bheshajam) grow up to be tall (oordvam jigatu). May the welfare of bipeds (dvipade; – two footed animals) be taken care of and they are happy. May the welfare of quadrupeds (chatushpade; four – footed animals) living with us in this world be taken care of.

1 Om Sahasra seershaa purushah; Sahasraaksha sahasrapaath. Sa bhoomim viswatho vruthwa. Athyathishtaddhasangulam

The Supreme Being (Purusha) has thousands of heads (Sahasra seershaa); has thousands of eyes (Sahasraaksha); has thousands of feet(sahasrapaath). He (sah) envelops (vruthwa) the entire universe (viswatah) and yet transcends it by ten inches (Athyathishtad- dhasangulam)


The Supreme Being is Omnipresent. This is being expressed in a poetic way. He has thousands of heads. All our heads are His. He has thousands of eyes. All our eyes are His. He has thousands of feet. All our feet are His. He is cognizing through every mind, seeing through every eye, working through every limb. He not only pervades the entire universe but transcends it as well.

2 Purusha eeveda sarvam.Yad bhootam yacha bhavyam. Utha amruthathwasya eesana. Yad annena athirohathi

Essentially, the whole universe is He Himself. Whatever was (yad bhootam), whatever is (idam) and whatever will be (yath bhavyam cha) – are all (sarvam) His (Purushah eva) manifestations. In addition (uthah), He is the only authority (eesanah) who can confer immortality (amruthathwasya). He transcends (athirohathi) all this world of objects (annena).

3 Ethaa vaanasya mahimaa atho jyaayagscha purushah Paadhosya vishwa bhoothanee.Tripaadasyamrutham divi

The whole manifest universe (ethaa vaan), visible to us, is His (asya) splendour (mahima). Yet (athah), He (Purushah cha) transcends it very much (jyaayan). By a small part of His splendour, literally by one-fourth (paadah), He supports this universe (bhoothanee vishwa) at all times – in the past, present and future. However, a major part of His splendour literally three quarter (tripaad), is beyond the range of the manifest universe (divi) and embodies immortality (amrutham).

The limitless splendour of the Supreme Being is being discussed here. In a short period of our lives here, we have not come to grips to fully understand the processes that have made this universe stay and function as a unit, and serve as an abode for millions of living beings. From time to time, events and tyrants have threatened to upset its balance and peace. Yet, through His grace, peace has always been restored. However, all this is being supported by Him, for millions of years, by just a fraction of His powers.

We will now be talking about one of the important subjects raised in the Vedas – Yagna or Yaga.

Our ancient sages, taking a broad view, have come to regard the whole world process as a great Yagna.

We notice that all that is born eventually dies. Flowers bloom only to wither and fall off by the end of the day. Yet the dead ones have been responsible for the birth of new ones. The withered ones have given way to new blooms. Creation feeds on itself. This cycle reminds us of a Yagna in progress.


We have a part to play in this universe. For our living we take from this universe a number of items (eg) air, food and water. We, in turn, return these back to the universe – in some other form. We are born with some intelligence and capabilities. By a proper use of it, we return it back to the world at large. This process of take and give is a basic process. This is rule of a Yagna. Everyone has a responsibility to follow this.

Within this broad Yagna of the world process, lie the specific yagnas, and homas that people perform. Offerings such as ghee (clarified butter) and others are made during the performance of the yagnas and homas. While performing these rituals, we pray to Devatas to fulfill our desires. The Bhagavad Gita (3.11) tells us that through these yagnas we should please the Devatas and they in turn will respond to fulfill our desires.

Purusha Sooktam tells us that Creation also occurred as a result of a Maha Yagna wherein, the Supreme Being made Himself as the offering.

The Purusha Sookta describes of a two stage creation process. The first stage is called Poorva Shrsti. During this stage the creation of the universe is handled. – consisting of sentient beings – both living and non- living. This is explained in 1.4 and 1.5. The second stage is called Uttara Shrsti. During this stage creation of food for living beings and similar matters is handled. This is handled in 1.6

4. Tripaad urdhwa udaith prurushah paado syehaabhavaath puna. Thatho vishva n vyakramath.Saashanaanashane abhi

Three parts (tripaad) of the splendour of the Purusha (Purushah) is beyond (urdhwah udaith) the range of the manifest universe. Only a part (paadah) of Him (asya) has manifested again and again (punah) and evolved (abhavaath) as the world of matter and individual selves. After that (thathah) He has permeated (abhivyakramath) all (vishvath) the sentient and non-sentient beings (saashana anashane).

5. Tasmaat viraad ajaayata viraajo adhi poorushah Sa jaato atyaricyatah paschad bhoomimatho purah

From the Purusha (tasmaat) emerged the Cosmos, the universe (viraat ajaayata). Along with that (viraajo adhi) came forth, the cosmic person the first creator, Brahma (Purushah jaatah) and he grew to pervade everything (atyarichyatah). He (sah) then (paschat) created the Earth (bhoomim) first and then the various bodies (purah) – both divine and demonic.

From the Supreme Being, Sriman Narayana, came forth the Universe. Along with that, the creative aspect of the Supreme Being, Brahma


came forth. Brahma grew very large after being born and included everything within him. For this reason the universe is called Brahmaanda. Brahma then created this earth and gave form to the Devas, humans and animals.

6. Yatpurushena havishaa | devaa yajnam atanvata |

Vasanto asyaaseedaajyam | greeshma idhma Sharaddhavih

Then the Devas performed the sacrifice – Srshti-Ygana. However, there existed nothing at that time – save the Supreme Purusha himself. So the Devatas performed the Yagna making the Supreme Purusha (Purushena) as the sacrificial offering (havishaa). For the Yagna so performed (atanvata)) by the Devatas, the spring season (vasantah) became the ghee (aajyam); summer (greeshma) became the twigs (idhmah) and autumn (sharad) became (aaseeth) the rice offering (havih).

The Supreme Being, Sri Maha Vishnu, has pervaded everything in the universe and protects it. Even the Havis offered while performing the Yagna has also been pervaded by Him. The person for whom the Havis is offered is once again Sri Maha Vishnu. Such is the nature of the Supreme lord and is being expressed in the above Rik.

7. Saptaasyaa san paridayah trih sapta samidah krtaa

devaa yad yajnam tanvaanaah abadhnan purusham pashum

For this Yagna (asya), the five Mahabhutas together with night and day (sapta) represented the seven boundaries (paridayah). Twenty one (trih sapta) tatwas represented the sacrificial faggots (samidah). The Devatas (devaa) started (tanvaanaah) the Yagna tying (abadnan) Brahma (yat purusham) as the sacrificial beast (pashum).

When this Yagna was started, Srishti has not commenced. Material required for performing the Yagna have not been created, for example, Kusha grass, trees etc. So in this first Yagna, elements then available in nature, or Prakruti, were used. Available elements fell into two categories – those available in Prakruti externally and those available internally.

Yagna kunda, the sacred fire is invoked on an alter and is always fenced to ward off from the ill effects of evil forces. For the first Yagna, elements available externally were utilized to form the fence. And those were the Pancha Maha Bhootas (Akasa, Vaayu, Agni, Apah and Prithvi) together with night and day. – Altogether seven.

Now for the Samidah – twenty one sacrificial faggots. For this, elements available in Prakruti internally were chosen. Five Jnana Indriyas, organs of perception, (Ear, skin, eyes, tongue, and nose) Five Karma Indriyas,


organs of action, (speech, hands, legs, anus and genitals), Five physiological functions (Prana, Apana, Vyana, Udana and Samana), Four Antahkaranas, inner instruments, (Manas, Buddhi, Ahamkara and Chitta) together with Dharma and Adharma constitute twenty one sacrificial faggots.

The creator Brahma, himself, was used as the sacrificial beast. The

Yagna commenced.

8. Tam yajnam barhishi prokshan purusham jaatamagratah Tena devaa ayajanta saadhyaa rushayascha ye

In the Yagna (barhishi) they sprinkled (prokshan) water on the first (agratah) created (jaatam) Yagna- Purusha (yagnam purusham), Brahma. After that (tena) Devatas (devaa), achievers (saadhyaa) (those who dwell in the Vaikunta), Rishis (rushayah cha) and all others who were there proceeded with the Yagna (ayajanta).

The Yagna commenced with the purification of Brahma by sprinkling water on Him. Thus was performed the first sacrifice by the Devas and Rishis.

9. Tasmaad yagnaat sarva hutah sambrtam prshadaajyam

pashoog staag schakre vaayavyaan aaranyaan graamyaascha ye

From this great Yagna (tasmaad yagnaat), the celebrated Srishti Yagna (sarva hutah), came out (sambrtam) curd (yogurt) mixed with ghee (clarified butter) – prshadaajyam. Brahma then created (chakre) birds (vaayavyaan), wild (aaranyaan) tame animals (graamyaascha) and other living beings (pashoon)

10 Tasmaad yajnaat sarvahutah ruchah saamaani jignire chandaagmsi jignire tasmaat yajus tasmaad ajaayata

From this great Yagna (tasmaad yagnaat), the celebrated Srishti Yagna (sarva hutah), came out (jignire) the Rig Veda mantras (ruchah), Sama Veda mantras (Saamaani). From this rite were born (jignire) the metres (chandaamsi), the scheme of versification used in writing Slokas. Yajur Veda (Yajuh) also issued (ajaayata) from this (tasmaat) Yagna.

We now see that from this Yagna rose the mantras for the Rig and Sama Vedas. Yajur Veda also came out from this Yagna. Chandas also issued from the Yagna.

Chandas is a scheme of versification used while writing Slokas. Based on the number of letters, there are seven different Chandas.

Gayatri Chandas has Ushnith Chandas has Anushtup Chandas has Brhati Chandas has Pankti Chandas has

6 letters 7 letters 8 letters 9 letters 10 letters


Tushtup Chandas has 11 letters Jagathi Chandas has 12 letters

11 Tasmaadashvaa ajaayanta ye ke chobhayaadatah gaavoha jagnire tasmaat tasmaat jaataa ajaavayah

From the Yagna (tasmaat) rose (ajaayanta) horses (ashva). Animals having two rows of teeth (ye ke ubhayaadatah) and cattle (gaavah) also came from there (tasmaat jagnire). Sheep (ajaah) and buffalos (aavayah) came out (jaatah).

12. Yat purusham vyadadhuh kathidhaa vyakalpayan mukham kimasya kau baahoo kavooroo paadaa uchyete

Into what forms (kathidhaa) did the Devatas cast (vyakalpayan) Brahma (Purusham) when (yath) they used Him as the sacrifice (vyadadhuh)? What (kim) did His (asya) face (mukham) become (aaseeth)? What was told (uchyete) about His hands (bahoo)? What was told about His thighs (ooroo) and feet (paadaa)?

One cannot imagine the amount of thought that went in before the projection of the human being. In addition, how would the various sections of human beings be represented in the form of the Supreme Being was also given a thought.

13 Brahmano asya mukhamaseet baahoo raajanya krtah Ooru tadasya yad vaishyah padbhyaagm shoodro ajaayata

His (asya) face (mukham) became (aseet) the Brahmin (brahmanah), His hands (bahoo) became Kshatriya (raajanyah) and His thighs (ooru) became vaishya (vaishyah). From His feet (padbhyaam) shoodras (shoodrah) were born (ajaayatah).

The brahmanahs were projected from the head or the power of thought and discrimination of the Lord. The Kshatriyas were projected from His arms or power of protection and preservation. The vaishyas were projected from the thighs or the power acquisition and distribution. Finally the shoodras were projected from the feet or power of support and movement.

14. Chandramaa manaso jaatah chaksho sooryo ajaayata mukhaadindraschaagnischa praanadvaayurajaayata

Then, from the Supreme Being, was born the various luminous beings, bodies and the different worlds.

The Moon (Chandrama) was born (jaatah) from His mind (manasah). The Sun (Sooryah) was born (ajaayata) from the eyes (chaksho). Indra (Indrah Cha) and Agni (Agnih cha) were born from His face (mukhaath). Vayu, the wind god, was born (ajayata) from the breath (Vaayuh).

15. Naabhyaa aaseedantariksham sheershnau dhyauh samavartata


padbhyaam bhoomir dishah shrotraat tathaa lokaagm akalpayan

The space (antariksham) emerged (aaseeth) from His navel (naabhi). The world of gods or heaven (dhyauh) emerged (samavartata) from His head (sheersha). The Earth (bhoomih) emerged from His feet (padbhyaam) and the quarters (dishah) from His ears (shrotraat). All the lokas (lokaan) emerged (akalpayan) in the same manner (tathaa).

What is the relationship between us and the Supreme Lord who has been described as having thousand heads, who has committed Himself as the sacrificial beast and created this Universe for us to live? After having been born and enjoyed this world what will be our duty? It rests in realizing Him.

16. Vedaahametam purusham mahaantam aadityavarnam tamasastu paare

Sarvaani roopaani vichitya dheerah naamaani krtvaabhivadan yadaaste

I (aham) have known (veda) that (etam) glorious (mahaantam) Supreme and magnanimous (dheerah) Being who has created (vichitya) from within Himself various (sarvaani) forms (roopani), called them by different names (naamaani), maintains them all; who is resplendent like the Sun (Aditya varnam) and is beyond (paare) all ignorance / darkness (tamasah tu).

While recording their experiences, the declaration of “I have known the Supreme Being” by the ancient sages ought to push us to a similar resolve that I should also know Him. The Rishis attained completeness in their lives by discovering some ultimate truths and importantly the purpose of life. Following their footsteps will give us opportunities to attain spiritual perfection.

What do we gain by knowing Him. This is explained in the next verse.

17. Dhaataa purastaadhyamudaajahaara shakra pravidvaan pradishashchatasrah Tamevam vidhvaanamrta iha bhavati naanyah pandhaa ayanaaya vidhyate

Brahma (Dhaataa), the creator, knew the Supreme Being (udaajahaara) from the beginning (purastaat) and revealed Him to Sakra (Indra). Indra looked around (pravidvaan) in the four directions (pradishah chatasrah) and realized His glory. Hence, even today, he who knows Him (tam) and the creation thus presented above as pervaded, permeated and possessed by the Supreme Being will attain (bhavati) immortality (amrtah) here (iha). There is no (n vidyate) other (anyah) way (pandhaa) for Moksha (ayanaaya).

18. Yagnyena yagnya-mayajanta devah taani dharmaani prathamaanyaasann


Te ha naakam mahimaanah sachante yatra poorve saadhyaah santi devaah

Devatas (devah) worshipped (ayajanta) the Supreme Being (yagnya) through this yagna (yagnyena). These (taani) were to become (aasan) the first (prathamaani) Dharmas (dharmaani). Those who follow the dharmas (te mahimaanah), will truly reach (sachante) the highest abode (naakam) where (yatra) the Devatas (devaam) and achievers (saadhyaa) who performed the first (poorve) Yagna live (santi).

The Devas performed the first sacrifice by consecrating the cosmic body of God Himself. This sacrifice (or renunciation of selfishness and all of one’s possessions) has become the basis of all religions.

Purusha Sooktam is complete with the18 mantras given above. However, in the south of India quite often, the first mantra of each of Uttara Narayanam, Narayana Sooktam and Vishnu Sooktam are chanted with Purusha Sooktam. So they are given below.

The following is from Uttara Narayanam.

19. Adbhyah sambhootah prthivyai rasaacha vishvakarmanah samavartataadhi

Tasya tvashtaa vidadhadroopameti tatpurushasya vishvamaajaanamagre

The Universe was born (sambhootah) from water (adbhyah) and the elemental essence (rasaath) of the earth (prthivyai). First (adhi) Brahma was born (samavartata) from the Supreme Being who created this earth (vishva karmanah). After perfecting (vidadhat) the forms of Brahma (tasya), the Supreme Being (tvashta) has pervaded (eti) everything. The world of forms created by Brahma (tat Purushasya) existed from the beginning (agre) of creation (ajanaam).

20 Vedaahametam purusham mahaantam aadityavarnam tamasas parastaat

Tamevam vidhvaanamrta iha bhavati| naanyah panthaa vidyate ayanaaya

I know the glorious (mahaantam) Supreme Lord who is resplendent like the Sun (aadityavarnam) and is beyond all darkness / ignorance (tamasah parastaat). He who realizes Him (tham) like this will attain (bhavati) immortality (amrtah) here (iha). There is no (n vidyate) other (anyah) way (pandhaa) for Moksha (ayanaaya).

21 Prajaapatischarati garbhe antah ajaayamaano bahudhaa vijaayate Tasya dheeraah parijaananti yonim mareecheenaam padamichanti vedhasah


The Supreme Being (Prajaapati) is moving (charati) around the world (garbhe antah) as an active principle. Though He is unborn (ajaayamaanah), being the Self of all, He manifests (vijaayate) Himself in various (bahudhaa) forms. Wise men (dheerah) realize very well (parijaayante) His (tasya) true form (yonim). Gods like Brahma (vedhasah) seek (ichanti) the position (padam) which great sages like Marichi (Mareecheenaam) have attained.

The position of Lord Brahma is the most coveted one. However, after thousands of years, at the time of dissolution (Pralaya) the Shrshti comes to an end. After 100 Brahma years, the duration of Brahma also comes to an end. However, that is not the case with realized souls like the great sage Marichi. He who realizes Bhagavan will become Bhagavan (Brahmavith Brahmaiva bhavati). Hence there is no death for such great people. For that reason, Gods like Brahma, desire to become Rishis on this earth. The message that we get from here is that though born as human beings we must take advantage of the unique opportunity given to us and try to search and seek Sriman Narayana.

22. Yo devebhya aatapati yo devaanaam purohitah

Poorvo yo devebhyo jaatah namo ruchaaya braahmaye

I salute (namah) the resplendent (ruchaaya) Supreme Being (braahmaye), who is the source behind the effulgence (aatapati) of the various Devatas (devebhyah), who is the Guru (purohitah) for all the Gods (devaanaam), who was there before (poorvah) any God (devebhyah) evolved (Jaatah).

23. Rucam braamham janayantah deva agre tadabruvan Yasvaivam braahmano vidhyaat tasya devaa asan vashe

At the beginning (agre) while revealing (janayantah) the truth (rucham) about the Supreme Being (braahmam), Devatas declared (abruvan) that whoever (yah tu) with steadfast resolve seek and realize Him as explained above will have even the Devatas (Devaah) in their grasp (vashe asan).

24. Hreeshcha te lakshmeeshcha patnyau ahoraatre paarshve nakshatraani roopam| ashvinau vyaattam

Hreedevi, the essence of modesty and Lakshmidevi who is the source of all wealth are your consorts. Night and day are thy two sides. The stars are thine own divine form. The divine doctors, Ashwini Devatas represent your smiling face.

Day and night is indicative of time. Just as the body is supported by its side, so also Shrshti is based on time. The mention of stars brings to mind Shrshti. The wonderful vast and variegated world of forms that we witness and admire everyday is but a fraction of His glory. Exhibition of even this miniscule renders us speechless. Mind boggles when we


think of the glory of the Supreme Being whose creation extends far beyond of what we see. With a view to get us to admire His glory as a creator, it is indicated here that Shrshti is His form. It will remind us that behind everyone of His creations like the Sun, Moon, stars, ocean, mountains and trees is His Divine will making each of them work for the benefit of all living creatures.

25. Ishtam manishaanaa amum manishaanaa sarvam manishaanaa

Please grant us (manishaanaa) what we desire (Ishtam). Grant us manishaanaa) happiness (amum) in this world. Grant us (manishaanaa) all that is for now and beyond.

Om Tacham yoraavrnimahe, Gaatum yagnayaa Gaatum Yagna pataye Daivee svastirastu nah Svastirmaanushebhyaha Oordvam jigaatu bheshajam Sham no astu dvipade sham chatushpade

Om Shantih, Shantih, Shantih

Narayana Sooktam

(Taittiriya Aranyakam 4.10.13)

This Sooktam explains about meditation.

Before meditation, one has to recite this and contemplate on the meaning, which in turn will help the Sadhak reach deeper levels of meditation. In the beginning the glory of God described. It is then followed by a step by step instruction on how to direct one’s mind during meditation – where and how to meditate.

It is customary to recite Narayana Sooktam along with the Purusha Sooktam. The ideas expressed in this Sooktam form the basis for meditation on the Supreme Being. Reciting this Sooktam before commencing on meditation will greatly aid in developing intense meditation.

Om Saha naavavatu, Sahanau Bhunaktu Saha Veeryam karavaavahai,

Tejasvi Navadheetamastu Ma Vidvishavahai

Om Shantih Shantih Shantih

Meditation does not mean to merely sit in front of an image, stare at it or just imagine of a familiar form. First we must try to understand where we stand in His divine presence. We must then be able to picture His resplendent beautiful form in our mind. For this reason, the following five mantras describe His glory.


1. Om. Sahasraseersham devam vishvaksham vishvasambhuvam Vishvam Narayanam devamaksharam paramam padam.

I meditate on the effulgent (devam) Supreme Being, Sriman Narayana (Narayana devam), who has thousands of heads (Sahasraseersham) and many eyes (vishvaksham). He is the producer of joy in the universe (vishvasambhuvam), is imperishable (Akshram), and supremely auspicious. He exists in the form of the universe (vishvam) and is the master of it (paramam padam).

2. Visvathah paramaanithyam visvam narayanagm harim, Visvamevedam purushasthadvisva mupajeevitha.

I meditate on Lord Sriman Narayana (Narayana), who is superior (paramath) to the universe (vishvatah), who is permanent (nityam), who exists in the form of the universe (vishvam), who is the destroyer of all sin and ignorance (harim).

3. Pathim visvasyatmeshwaragm shaasvathagm shivamachyutham, Narayanam mahaagneyam vishvaathmaanam paraayanam

I meditate on Lord Narayana who is the lord (patim) of the universe (vishvam), ruler of individual souls (aatma eshwaragm), who is permanent (shaasvathagm), imperishable (achyutham), supremely auspicious (shivam), supremely worthy of being known (mahaagneyam), the ruler of individual souls (vishva atmaanam) and who is worthy to take refuge in (paraayanam).

4. Narayana paro jyothiraathmaa Narayanah parah Narayanaparam brahma tatvam Narayanah parah Narayanaparo dhyaatha, dyaanam Narayanah parah

Lord Narayana is the supreme light (Narayanah parah jyotih). Lord Narayana is the supreme Self (Narayanah parah aatma). Lord Narayana is the supreme Reality (Narayanah parah tatvam) and as such designated as Brahman (Narayanah parah Brahman). He is the supreme to be meditated upon (Narayanah parah dhyaatha), and He is the Supreme meditation (Narayanah parah dyaanam).

You do not have to go in search of the Lord. The Supreme Lord Narayana, complete with all the glories indicated above, is resident within our own self – Antaryamin. This is explained in the next mantra.

5. Yaccha kinchit jagat sarvam drishyate srooyate api vaa, Antarbahischa tat sarvam vyaapya Narayana sthitah.

Whatever there is in this world (jagat sarvam) known through seeing (yaccha kinchit) or (api vaa) known through hearing (srooyate) is fully (tat sarvam) permeated (vyaapya) within (antah) and without (bahih cha) by Lord Narayana. He remains as the Supreme Truth.


Meditation is the final step in realizing Lord Narayana. The next mantra indicates where one’s mind should concentrate while meditating. The place for the meditation is in the region of the heart.

6. Anantham avyayam kavigm samudrentam vishva sambhuvam, Padmakosha pratheekaasham hridayam chaapyadho mukham

One should meditate upon the Supreme, the limitless (Anantam), unchanging (avyayam), all knowing (kavigm), the cause of happiness of the world (vishva sambhuvam), dwelling at the end of the sea (samudre antam) as the goal of all striving. The place for His meditation is the ether in the heart, the heart which is comparable to an inverted lotus bud (facing down).

The key word “samudre antam” is to be noted for its special significance. Vedanta explains to us that the Supreme Lord is at the end of the ocean called Samsaara. The raging sea of life for-ever boiling with tall waves of desire, anger and other consuming emotions is the Samsaara saagara. As long as tall waves of desire, anger and other consuming emotions hold their sway, we cannot hope to reach the Supreme Being. Meditation will be possible only after the mind fully calms down. Does it mean that only people who have given up all desires are capable of serious meditation? The answer is – yes. Meditation practiced with the single object of realizing God belongs to the highest order. The other kind where the meditation is done as a routine and life goes on after it is done with, is simple meditation meant to improve concentration.

7. Adho nishtyaa vitastyaante naabhyam upari tishthati, Jwaalamaalaakulam bhaati visvasya aayatanam mahat

This Rik tells us about the location of the heart. It should be known that the heart, we are talking about, is located below the Adam’s apple (nishtyaa adhah) and at a distance of a finger span (ante) above (upari) navel (naabhyam). It is shining (bhaati) with a garland of flames (Jwaalamaalaakulam). It is the great abode (mahat aayatanam) of the Universe (visvasya).

The heart that is being referred to here is not the organ that circulates the blood. Everyone is familiar with the location of this heart. On the contrary, what is being referred to in the Rik is the “spiritual” heart. Three distinct features for this spiritual heart are being described here. (a) It is just about three finger spans above the navel. The organ heart, that we are all familiar with, is also at about the same distance from the navel – but it is slightly to the left. The spiritual heart is to the right of this organ and almost at the center. (b) It is shining, as if, with a garland of flames. (c) It is brilliant. These special features are not applicable to the


organ heart. The question is whether we will reach the stage of perceiving this. Whether we do it or not, it is there for all the mankind. With an understanding that we should meditate with our heart, a number of people try to meditate concentrating their mind in the region of our organ heart. Try they might, till the end it will remain a futile exercise. What we should be concentrating on is the “spiritual” heart” – on the “lotus of the heart”. True meditation is possible only there. For many of us the lotus of our heart remains just a bud only. First we have to open this bud into a flower. To succeed in this, earnest efforts in terms of Japa and prayers are essential. Till he locates his spiritual center, the Sadhak will find his mind wandering. This is a challenge. The Supreme Being, Maha Vishnu, projected out of Himself the great Universe; and having projected out of Himself the Universe, He entered into every being and everything. He is the subtle essence of all. For this reason He is called the Antaryamin. This Rik indicates the great abode of the Supreme Being in the body

8 Santatam shilaabhistu lambatyaa kosha sannibham Tasyaante sushiram sookshmam tasmin sarvam pratishthitam

Like the bud of the lotus (aakosha sannibham), suspended in an inverted position (lambati) and surrounded by arteries (shilaabhi), is the organ –heart. In the middle of it there is a narrow space – a miniature aakash (sookshmam sushiram). Everything (sarvam) is supported (pratishthitam) in it (tasmin).

In essence, this Rik tells us that there is a miniature Aakash within the heart. Chandogya Upanishad describes this in the following manner – As large as the Universe outside, even so large is the universe within the lotus of the heart. Within it are heaven and earth, the Sun and the Moon, the lightning and all the stars. What is present in the macrocosm is also present in the microcosm. Though old age comes to the body, the lotus of the heart does not grow old. At the death of the body, it does not die. The lotus of the heart where Brahman exists in all His glory – that and not the body, is the true city of the Brahman. Brahman dwelling therein, is untouched by any deed, ageless, deathless, free from grief, free from hunger and thirst.

9. Tasya madhye mahaanagnir visvarchir vishvato mukhah So agrabhug vibhajan tishthan aahaaram ajara kavih

In (tasya) the middle (madhye) of that (narrow space of the heart or susumna) remains the un-decaying (tishta), all knowing (kavih), omni faced (vishvato mukhah) great fire (mahaan agnir), which has flames on every side, which enjoys the food (aahaaram) first presented before it (agrabhuk) and which remains assimilating the food (vibhajan) that has been consumed.


This is the next step in getting us to be introspective. As role of fire in the space is in the external world, so is this Praana for this body. This is the vital energy in our body. Praana performs all the tasks such as assimilation of food that has been consumed, distributing the energy consumed from the food to the various parts of the body, excreting the waste – all essential for the maintenance and growth of the body. As described above this Praana is situated in the narrow space of the heart. Since its tasks are covering every part of the body, it is described here as seeing all sides – (vishvato mukhah)

10. Tiryagurdhvam adhassaayi rasmayastasya santataa Santaapayati svam deham aapaadatala mastakah

Tasya madhye vahni sikhaa aniya oordhvaa vyavasthitaa

The rays (rasmayah) of this Praana (tasya) spread, scattering themselves vertically (urdhvam, adhah) and horizontally (tiryak), permeate (saayi) and always (santataa) the whole body. It warms (santaapayati) up its own body (svam deham) from the sole of the feet to the crown of the head (aapaadatala mastakah). At the center of this (tasya madhye) abides (vyavasthitaa) a tiny (aniyah) tongue of fire (vahni sikhaa) facing (oordhvam) up.

The departure of Praana from the body is called death. Soon after the departure of Praana, the body gets cold. The body is kept warm by the Praana Shakti. At the center of this fire, is the tongue shining brilliantly with its flame facing up. This tongue is the Jeevatma (or Jeeva – the individual self).

11. Neelatoyada madhyasthaad vidyullekheva bhaasvaraa Neevaarashookavattanvee peetaa bhaasvatyanoopamaa

The Jeevatma, shines (bhaasvaraa) with the colour of gold (peetaa). It is extremely thin (tanvee) as the awn of a paddy grain (neevaarashookavat) and very subtle (anu upamaa). Like a flash of lightening that flashes (vidyut lekhath eva) from the middle of a dark rain bearing cloud (neelatoyadamadhyasthaath).

Svetasvatara Upanishad and Mundaka Upanishad tell us that the Jeevatma is very subtle and self effulgent. It is also superior to the speech, mind and the sense organs. All these descriptions are efforts by our ancient sages make us realise the eternal truth.

12. Tasyaah sikhaayaa madhye Paramaatmaa vyavastitaha

Sa Brahma Sa Sivah Sa Harih Sendrah sokshara paramah svaraat

Paramatma, the Supreme Reality dwells in the middle of that flame. He is Brahma. He is Shiva. He is Vishnu. He is Indra. He is eternal and self-luminous. There is no one superior to Him.

We now know where the individual self, Jeevatma, is located in the body. During the creative act, Lord Narayana, not only projects from


Himself the various categories of His creation, but also enters into each one of them. He is thus Antaryamin, Sharirin (indweller) of the cosmos as a whole and every part of it including the Jeevatmans. By that it should not be interpreted that He is contained within them. He is infinitely beyond their dimension. He is in fact, their container too. The Sooktam describes the location in the body where the Supreme Being dwells.

13. Ritam Satyam Param Brahma Purusham krishnapingalam Oordhvaretam viroopaksham vishvaroopaaya vai namo namah

Parabrahman is the material and efficient cause of the universe (Satyam) and all the beautiful things that we see (Ritam). Salutations to Him again and again (namo namah) who has permeated every living being (Purusham), who has a complexion that is a mixture of the dark hue of Maha Vishnu and the fair complexioned Lord Shiva (Krishnapingalam), who is very auspicious (oordhvaretam), has three eyes (viroopaksham) and whose form is that of the Universe (vishvaroopaaya vai).

In this manner, the Maha Narayana Sooktam turns us into an introspective mood and takes us to the presence of the Supreme Being. After that, serving the Lord with supreme devotion is true meditation.

14. Om Naaraayanaaya vidmahe Vaasudevaaya dheemahi Tanno Vishnu Prachodayaath

This is Vishnu Gayatri. We commune with Lord Narayana and meditate on Lord Vasudeva. May that Vishnu guide and inspire us.

Om Saha naavavatu, Sahanau Bhunaktu Saha Veeryam karavaavahai,

Tejasvi Navadheetamastu Ma Vidvishavahai Om Shantih Shantih Shantih

Meditation does not mean to merely sit in front of an image, stare at it or just imagine of a familiar form. First we must try to understand where we stand in His divine presence. We must then be able to picture His resplendent beautiful form in our mind. For this reason, the following five mantras describe His glory.

Mantra Pushpam

(Taittiriya Aranyaka 1.22)

Performing Puja is a very popular form of worship. Towards the end of the Puja the one Veda mantra that is soul stirring and inspiring to every devotee is the Mantra Pushpa. Even those who have not studied the Vedas completely chant the Mantra Pushpa at the conclusion of the puja. This mantra occurs in the Taittiriya Aranyaka.


The offering of flowers or Pushpa during worship is a very important ritual. It is called Pushpanjali. While offering Pushpanjali the devotee expresses his complete surrender to the Lord and seeks His grace and this is signified in the Mantra Pushpa.

Jala (water), Chandra (moon), Agni (fire), Vaayu (wind), Surya (Sun), Nakshatra (stars), Megha (clouds), rainy season are all aspects of Prakruti that we come across in everyday life. These get mentioned in this mantra. All these aspects are interdependent on each other. At the same time all these are rely on Jala (water).

In the anuvaaka “Yopaam pushpa” it is stated that Jala on which our lives are entirely dependent is also source on which the world is dependent on. Those who realise this will be blessed with wealth and mukti. Similarly, Agni, Vaayu, Surya, Chandra, Nakshtras (stars), Megha (clouds), rainy season all rely on water. Jala, in turn also relies on them – a case of mutual dependence. Those who realise this will be blessed with mukti.

I salute the Supreme Being who is available to us in the form of “ap”

Om Bhadram Karmebhih Shrunuyama Devah Bhadram Pashyema – Akshabhir- Yajatrah Sthirairangais – Tushtuvam – Sastanubhih Vyashema Deavahitam Yadayuh

Swasti Na Indro Vriddhashravah Swasti Nah Pusha Visvavedah Swasti Nah Tarkshyo Arishtanemih Swasti No Brhaspatirdadhatu

Om Shantih, Shantih, Shantih.

1. Om yo paam pushpam veda pushpavaan prajaavaan pashumaan bhavati

Chandramaa vaa apaam pushpam pushpavaan prajaavaan pashumaan bhavati

Ya evam veda

He who (yah) understands (veda) the flower (pushpam) of the water (apaam) will become the processor of flowers (pushpavaan), cattle (pashumaan) and progeny (prajaavaan). Chandra (chandramaa vaa) is the flower (pushpam) of the water (apaam). He who (yah evam) understands (veda) this fact will be rich with cattle (pashumaan) and progeny (prajaavaan). This expresses the sacred relationship between Apaam and Chandra

2. Yo paamaayatanam veda aayatanavaan bhavati Agnirvaa apaamaayatanam

aayatanavaan bhavati yo agneyaraayatanam veda aayatanavaan bhavati

Apo vai agneraayatanam aayatanavaan bhavati ya evam veda


He (yah) who understands (veda) the source (aayatanam) of water (apaam) becomes established in himself (aayatanavaan). Fire (agni vaa) is the source (aayatanam) of water (apaam). He, who understands this, becomes established in himself. He, who understands the source of fire, becomes established in himself. Water is the source of fire. He, who understands this, becomes established in himself.

3. Yo paamaayatanam veda aayatanavaan bhavati Vaayurvaa apaamaayatanam

aayatanavaan bhavati yo Vaayurva aayatanam veda aayatanavaan bhavati

Apo vai Vaayor aayatanam aayatanavaan bhavati ya evam veda

He who understands the source of water becomes established in himself. Vaayu (wind) is the source of water. He who understands the source of wind becomes established in himself. Water is the source of wind and who understands this becomes established in himself.

4. Yo paamaayatanam veda aayatanavaan bhavati

Asau vai tapannapaamaayatanam aayatanavaan bhavati

Yo musya tapata aayatanam veda aayatanavaan bhavati

Apo vai amusya tapata aayatanam aayatanavaan bhavati ya evam veda

He who understands the source of water becomes established in himself. The scorching Sun is the source of water. He who understands the source of Surya (Sun) becomes established in himself. Water is the source of Sun. He who understands this becomes established in himself.

5. Yo paamaayatanam veda aayatanavaan bhavati

Chandramaa vaa apaamaayatanam aayatanavaan bhavati Yaschandramasa aayatanam veda aayatanavaan bhavati

Apo vai chandramasa aayatanam aayatanavaan bhavati ya evam veda

He who understands the source of water becomes established in himself. Chandra is the source of water. He who understands the source of Chandra (moon) becomes established in himself. Water is the source of Chandra. He who understands this becomes established in himself.

6. Yo paamaayatanam veda aayatanavaan bhavati

Nakshatrani vaa apaamaayatanam aayatanavaan bhavati

Yo Nakshatraanaamaayatanam veda aayatanavaan bhavati

Apo vai Nakshatraanaamaayatanam aayatanavaan bhavati ya evam veda


He who understands the source of water becomes established in himself. Nakshatras (stars) are the source of water. He who understands the source of Nakshatras becomes established in himself. Water is the source of Nakshatras. He who understands this becomes established in himself.

7. Yo paamaayatanam veda aayatanavaan bhavati

Parjanyo vaa apaamaayatanam aayatanavaan bhavati

Yah Parjanyasyaayatanam veda aayatanavaan bhavati

Apo vai Parjanyasyaayatanam aayatanavaan bhavati ya evam veda

He who understands the source of water becomes established in himself. Clouds are the source of water. He who understands the source of clouds becomes established in himself. Water is the source of clouds. He who understands this becomes established in himself.

8. Yo paamaayatanam veda aayatanavaan bhavati

Samvatsaro vaa apaamaayatanam aayatanavaan bhavati

Yah samvatsarasyaayatanam veda aayatanavaan bhavati

Apo vai samvatsarasyaayatanam aayatanavaan bhavati ya evam veda

He who understands the source of water becomes established in himself. Seasons are the source of water. He who understands the source of seasons becomes established in himself. Water is the source of seasons. He who understands this becomes established in himself.

9. Yopsu naavam pratishtitaam veda pratyeva tishtati

He who understands that a boat is located in the water becomes

established in himself. This will be commented upon towards the end.

10. Om Raajaadhiraajaaya prasahyasaahine’ Namo vayam vaishravanaaya kurmahe

Sa mae kaamaankaamakaamaaya mahyam kameshvaro vaisravano dadaatu

Kuberaaya vaishravanaaya mahaarajaaya namah

We (vayam) salute (namah kurmahe) Kubera (Vaishravanaya), the king of kings (raajaadhi raajaaya), who grants us great success (prasahya saahine’). May he (sah) the fulfiller of all desires (kameshvarah) and the king of wealth (Vaishravanah) grant (dadaatu) us enough wealth to fulfill (kaamakaamaaya) all our desires (kaamaan). Once again we salute king (mahaarajaaya) Kubera the lord of wealth (vaishravanaaya Kuberaaya).

Water, Moon, Agni, Vaayu, Surya, Clouds, seasons- are all various amshas of the Prakruti. These are all getting mentioned here. Though they are all independent entities, they are interdependent. At the same time, water is the key element on which everything else is dependent.


The first four mantras state that he who understands this becomes established in himself. The 9th mantra talks about a boat. The 10th mantra praises the God.

Often, while describing the passage of life water and ocean are mentioned. The description of the source for water as moon and clouds, in fact, reminds us that life on earth is supported by Prakruti that has amshas like the moon, clouds etc. For this reason, Prakruti will need to be revered and worshipped. The use of water and flowers during poojas is to signify this worship of Prakruti.

We should not stop with the worship of Prakruti. We should go beyond that. For progressing beyond that stage, the 9th mantra talks about a boat. The boat, in fact, is no other than the Supreme Being Himself. Reminding us that we should realize Lord, the 10th mantra praises His glory. We should sail past the rituals, and seek to realize the Lord within.

Om Bhadram Karmebhih Shrunuyama Devah Bhadram Pashyema – Akshabhir- Yajatrah Sthirairangais – Tushtuvam – Sastanubhih Vyashema Deavahitam Yadayuh

Swasti Na Indro Vriddhashravah Swasti Nah Pusha Visvavedah Swasti Nah Tarkshyo Arishtanemih Swasti No Brhaspatirdadhatu

Om Shantih, Shantih, Shantih.

Aditya Hridayam

People during the Vedic times were not viewing Sun merely as a planet that rises in the morning and sets by night. They recognized Him as the Supreme Being supporting life on earth and a provider of energy and food. More importantly, He inspires people to have righteous thoughts and perform actions to suit. People pray to Surya to grant them wealth required to lead their day to day lives happily and also for the spiritual power needed to lead higher levels of life.

Aditya Hridyam – the hymn to the Sun God- is ascribed to great sage Agastya. It forms a part of the Yuddha kaanda written by Sage Valmiki.

The first two Slokas describe the circumstances under which the Sage Agastya initiated this hymn to Sri Rama. Fourth and fifth Slokas indicate the benefits in reciting the Hymn. Slokas from six to fourteen describe Surya Narayana in various manifestations. In Slokas from sixteen to twenty-one obeisance to the God is being offered. Slokas twenty six and twenty seven contain the advice by the Sage Agastya to Sri Rama.


There is only one Supreme Reality and all the Devis and Devatas that we hear about are all the Vibhutis or manifestations of this Parabrahman. Among the Devatas, Aditya (Surya) the son of Aditi is highly celebrated and greatly revered. Being a Vibhuti of Lord Narayana he is often referred to as Surya Narayana. In fact, the Slokas in Aditya Hridayam may be interpreted both in terms of the God Surya and Lord Narayana. It is a common practice to recite the hymn on every Sundays.

1. Tato Uddha parishraantam samare’ chintayaa sthitam Raavanam chaagrato drshtyaa uddaaya samupasthitam

2. Daivathascha samaagamya drishtu mabhyaagato ranam Upaagamyaa bravee draama magastyo bhagavaan rushih

Then the all-knowing Sage Agastya, who had come and joined the Devatas to witness the fierce battle witnessed Rama lost in deep thought, utterly exhausted in battle and still facing Ravana who has come prepared for a fresh encounter. The sage approached Rama and spoke to him thus.

3. Rama Rama mahaabaaho shrunu guhyam sanaatanam Yena sarvaanareen vatsa samare’ vijayishyasi

O Rama, mighty armed Sri Rama listen to this ancient secret whereby you can vanquish in battle all your foes.

4. Aditya Hridayam punyam sarva shatru vinaashanam Jayaavaham japenitya makshayam paramam shivam

5. Sarva mangala maangalyam sarva paapa pranaashanam Chintaashoka prashamana maayurvardhana muttamam

The holy hymn of Aditya Hridayam is addressed to the Sun deity. It is very auspicious. If earnestly chanted, it will get rid of all your enemies and bring you victory and unending felicity. This most auspicious hymn will destroy all sins, mental, physical illnesses and bestows long life.

6. Rasmimantam samudyantam devaasura namaskrutam Poojayasva vivasvantam bhaskaram bhuvaneshvaram

Worship the Sun God, who is held in great veneration by both the Devas and Asuras, possessed of golden coloured rays when he has fully risen in the early mornings, eclipses all other luminous bodies, the resplendent lord of the Universe by whose effulgence all others shine.

7. Sarva Devaatmako hyesha tejasvee rasmibhaavanah Yesha devaasuraganaan lokaan paati gabhastibhih

He is verily the soul of all the Devas. He is self luminous and the sustainer of all with his rays. He protects the inhabitants of all the worlds, the Devas and Asuras with rays that nourish and energize them.


8. Yesha Brahmaa cha Vishnuscha Shiva Skandah Prajaapatih Mahendro Dhanadah Kaalo Yama Somo Hyapaam patih

The presiding deity of the Sun is indeed all the following – Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva, Skanda (the son of Goddess Parvati), the nine Prajaapatis (Lord of creatures), Mahendra (king of the Devas), Kubera (Lord of wealth), Kaala (Lord of time), Yama (Lord of death), Soma (Chandra, the one that nourishes all), and Varuna (Lord of waters). It really means that they are all the manifestations of one Supreme Being.

9. Pitaro vasava saadhyaa hyaschinau maruto manuh Vaayurvahnih prajaapraanaa rutugartaa prabhaakarah

He is also the Pitrs, Vasus (the eight dispensers of treasures), the Saadhyas, the twin Ashwini Devas (the celestial physicians), the Maruts, Vayu, Agni, the vital Praana in all created beings and the sole cause for all the seasons that we experience.

10. Aditya Savita Suryah khagah pooshaa gabhastimaan Suvarna sadrusho bhanur hiranya retha Divaakarah

He (Sun) is the son of Aditi (mother of all the Devatas), creator of the Universe, inspirer of action, travels by the sky, He nourishes the world feeding it with rain, has a golden hued brilliance and he is the maker of the day.

11. Haridaswah sahasrarchi saptha sapthir mareechiman, Thimironmadhana shambhu sthwashta marthanda amsuman.

He has greenish coloured horses, has countless number of rays, rides on seven horses and dispels darkness. He bestows happiness and prosperity. He removes all misfortunes. He is the infuser of life in an otherwise mundane existence and an omnipresent Being with his rays penetrating everywhere.

12. Hiranya garbha shishira thapano bhaskaro ravih, Agni garbha adithe puthra shanka shishira nasanah

Surya deva is the store house of all riches. He has a soothing influence on the minds of all His devotees. He is the source of heat and light for the world. He is praised in the Vedas. He has great fire in His womb. He is the son of Aditi. He melts all frost.

13. Vyomanadha sthamobhedi rig yajur sama paaragah, Ghana vrushti rapaam mithro vindhya veedhi plavangamah

Surya Deva is the Lord of the Sky. He dispels darkness. He is the master par-excellence of the three Vedas – Rig, Yajur and Sama. It is through His grace that we get heavy rain. He is the friend of the waters. He is the friend and benefactor of all pure minded people. He travels very fast in the sky, crossing the Vindhya ranges in one bound.

14. Aathapee mandali mruthyu pingala sarva thaapanah,


Kavir vishvo maha thejaa rakthah sarvodbhavah

O Deva, you are the one who gives heat. You have a global shape. You inflict death (on impediments). You have a golden yellow colour (as rising Sun). You heat everything (during mid day). You are exceedingly energetic, beloved of all and the generator of all action.

15. Nakshatra graha thaaraanam adhipo, vishva bhaavanah, Thejasam aphi thejasvi dvaadasaathman namosthuthe

He is the Lord of the stars, planets and constellations. He is the origin of everything in the Universe and the resplendent cause of the luster of anything brilliant. He is the one with twelve forms and is known as Dvaadasha Aditya. They are – Indra, Dhaata, Aryama, Mitra, Varuna, Indra, Vivasvan, Pusha, Parjanya, Ansh, Bhaga, Twasta and Vishnu. I salute Him.

16. Namah poorvaya giraye, paschime giraye namah, Jyothirganaanaam pathaye dinadhipathaye namah.

Salutations to the presiding deity of the Eastern mountains (where the Sun rises) and the Western mountains (where the Sun sets). Salutations to the Lord of stellar bodies and also to the Lord of the day.

17. Jayaya jaya bhadraya haryasvaya namo namah, Namo nama sahasramsho adithyaya namo namah.

Salutations unto Him that ordains victory. Salutations unto Him who rides on green steeds. Salutations to the thousand rayed Lord, the son of Aditi.

18. Nama ugraya veeraya sarangaya namo namah,

Namah padma prabhodaya, maarthandaaya namo namah

Salutations to the terrible one (who is relentless to the offenders who fail to keep their senses under control) and to that hero with awe inspiring valor. Salutations to the one who traverses fast and whose emergence makes the lotuses bloom (awakener of the lotus in the heart).

19. Brhameshaanachutheshaya sooryadhithya varchase, Bhasvathe sarva bhakshaya roudraya vapushe namah

Salutations to the over-lord of Brahma, Shiva and Vishnu and to Him who inspires created beings into action. Obeisance to the lord who is, in fact, the intrinsic effulgence in the Sun. He is the illuminator, devourer of everything and has a fierce form.

20. Thmognaya himagnaya shathrugnaya amithathmane, Kruthagnagnaya devaya jyothisham pathaye namah.


Obeisance to the Lord who dispels all darkness (of ignorance) and fear that grips like frost. Salutations to Him who destroys the foes (both internal and external) of all his devotees, ungrateful beings and who is self-effulgent and the lord of all stellar bodies.

21. Taptha chamikaraabhaaya vahnaye vishva karmane, Namasthomabhinignaya ruchaye loka sakshine

Obeisance to the Lord who is shining like molten gold: Salutations to the transcendental fire, the fire of supreme knowledge; salutations to the Lord responsible for the creation of the Universe, for Him who is the destroyer of darkness (ignorance included), and for the glorious self- effulgent Lord who is the ultimate cosmic witness.

22. Naasa yatyesha vai bhootham tadeva srujathi prabhuh Payathyesha thapathyesha varshatyesha gabhasthibhih

Salutations to the Lord who destroys everything that was and creates them once again. Salutations to Him who, heats water with His powerful rays, and returns it as rain.

23. Yesha suptheshu jagarthi bhootheshu parinishtithah

Yesha chaivagni hothram cha phalam chaivagni hothrinam Salutations to the Lord who is awake when all the beings in the world are asleep. He is both the sacrificial fire and the fruit enjoyed by the worshippers thereof.

24. Vedascha kratavaschaiva krathoonam phalameva cha, Yani kruthyani lokeshu sarva yesha ravih prabhuh

Lord Surya is the Lord of all action in this Universe. He is verily the Vedas, the sacrifices, such as theYagas, prescribed therein and the fruits thereof.

25. Yena mapathsu kruchreshu kaanthaareshu bhayeshu cha, Keerthayan Purushah kaschin aavaseedhathi Raghavah.

O Raghava, he who recites this hymn in times of peril, when in grievous distress, when lost in wilderness, when seized by fear, will not lose heart. He will be saved from the distressing times.

26. Poojayasvaina mekegro deva devam jagat pathim, Ethath trigunitham japthva yuddeshu vijayashyasi

O Rama, worship this God of all Gods, Lord of the Universe with a single minded devotion. Reciting this hymn thrice in a day you shall emerge victorious in your battle with the mighty Ravana.

27. Asmin kshane mahaa baaho Ravanam thwam vadhishyasi, Evamukthwaa tadaa Agasthyo jagama cha yada gatham


O mighty armed Rama, if you do as indicated you shall triumph over Ravana and kill him this very moment. Having spoken thus the great sage Agastya returned from whence he came.

28. Eta chruthva mahaa thejaa nashta shoko bhavath thada, Dhaarayaamaasa supreetho Raghavah prayathathmavaan.

Having heard this, the illustrious Raghava was greatly pleased and freed himself from all worry. Filled with great enthusiasm and with a pure heart he meditated on Lord Aditya.

29. Adhithyam prokshya japthvaa thu param harsha mavaapthaavan, Thriraachamya suchir bhoothva dhanuraadhaaya veeryavaan

Sri Rama cleansed himself by performing Aachamana, and then gazing intently at Aditya he performed, with great devotion, the Aditya Hridaya Japa thrice. Experiencing great felicity, he took up the mighty bow and got ready for the battle.

30. Ravanam preshya hrushtaathmaa yudhaaya samupaagamath, Sarva yathnena mahathaa vadhe thasya drutho


Seeing Ravana in front of him he was delighted and went forth with great enthusiasm to fight the battle. He put forth all his effort he decided to kill Ravana.

31. Adha ravi ravada nireekshya Ramam, Mudithamanaah paramam prahrushyamaana, Nisicharapathi samkshyam vidithva,

Sura gana Madhya gatho vachasthvarethi

When Rama meditated on the Surya deva by reciting the Aditya Hridaya, the Lord Aditya was very pleased. Surrounded by all the Devatas, Lord Surya realised that the destruction of the King Ravana was imminent. He looked at Rama with delight and exclaimed do not delay Hurry up.

Gadya Trayam

Eastern religions are distinguished by the emphasis they lay on experience than on authority. They have their own rituals, mythologies but the basic conception that is dominating is the renewal of consciousness. The purpose of religion is spiritual and not merely metaphysical conversion. The thrust is on the displacement of ignorance, Avidya, by knowledge, Vidya or awareness. For the Indian people the idea of religion has always been one of direct experience of the Divine. Vidya, vision and wisdom is the goal of the Upanishads.


Vedanta is based on scriptures and traditions. Should it then be called a theology or philosophy? Neither is correct. It is a Darsana, a world view. The word Darsana means- seeing. It is ultimately based on experience. The scriptures tell us that the doctrines given by them are records of experiences.

The topics commonly discussed in Vedanta Darsana are – (1) The nature of the physical world, its origin and evolution (2) Nature of the human and other beings (3) Existence of God, His nature and attributes (4) The goal of human life and the way of attaining it. Prasthana-traya (three great paths) are the basis for commentaries written on Vedanta Darsana. Upanishads, Brahma sutra and the Bhagavad-Gita constitute the Prasthana-traya.

The commentary written by Sri Shankara Bhagavatpaada is the most notable one in the Advaita Saampradaya. The word Advaita means non-dual, “one without a second”. The system recognizes Brahman (the Absolute) as the only reality and denies permanent reality to all others such as Jagat (world) and the Jivas (individual souls). The entire world of manifestation and multiplicity is not real in itself but seems to be real only for those who live in ignorance (Avidya). Only the wisdom that the Supreme Reality and the Individual Self are identical can bring us redemption. It is Maya that causes the world of phenomenon. Maya is Avidya at cosmic level. According to this philosophy, Brahman associated with Maya is Saguna Brahman (Brahman with attributes. Sri Shankara emphasizes that Brahman can be comprehended only through its “Swaroopalakshana”. Swaroopalakshana refers to its essential characteristics. The essential characteristics of Brahman are – Sat (eternal reality), Chit (pure consciousness) and Ananda (unalloyed bliss). Sat-Chit-Ananda is not merely its characteristics. In fact, it is its essence.

The path to Mukti or liberation is involved and not easily available for ordinary people. It involves a few stages. The first is the practice of a fourfold discipline called Saadhana Chatushtaya. The second stage involves training under a competent Guru.

Vishishtaadvaita Vedanta Darsana is not a creation of Sri Ramanuja alone. The twelve Alwars as also Acharyas like Naathamuni, Yamuna and Sri Ramanuja evolved the system out of the more ancient teachings. However, Sri Ramanuja is the best exponent. For this reason, it is often referred to as the Ramanuja Darsana. The system accepts both the Sanskrit Prasthana-traya and the Tamil Prabandhams as equally authoritative. Hence the philosophy is also called “Ubhaya Vedanta”.

While the Advaita system recognizes Brahman as the only reality, Vishishtaadvaita accepts three entities as ultimate realities – (1) Brahman (2) Jiva or Chit (3) Prakruti or Achit. Of these, Brahman is the absolute and independent reality. The other two, Jiva and Prakruti are dependent realities. The three together are referred to as Tattvatraya.


Sri Ramanuja also disagrees with the assertions of the Advaita by Sri Shankara that the Supreme Being is Nirguna (without attributes) and Niraakaara (without a form). According to him, in all theisms, God must be supremely adorable and infinitely good personal being. He cannot be quality-less impersonal being as if He is not responsive to prayers and worship.

Sri Ramanuja proposes the Supreme Lord with an archetypal form. In addition, drawing substance from various Puranas the Acharya goes on to elaborate the Swaroopa (Satyam, Jnanam, Anantam, Anandam, Amalatvam etc) and Svabhavas (Bala, Aishvarya, Skakti, Veerya, Kaarunya, Audaarya etc) of the Supreme Being.

Prapatti is a special introduction by Sri Ramanujacharya. It is the concept of total surrender. It is specially addressed to those who are unable to practice Karma Yoga, Jnaana Yoga or Bhakti Yoga. Its main characteristics are to conceive what is in conformity with the will of God and to reject what is disagreeable to Him (more about this at a later stage); to seek Him as the sole refuge and protector and surrender to Him completely without any qualification.

Yet it must be emphasized that it is not invented by him to suit the occasion. The following points may be noted.

1. There are references to “Prapatti” as a superior means in the Vedas, Upanishads, Itihasas and Puranas.

2. Bhakti and Parama Bhakti are the end products of a long and difficult course of discipline of the head and the heart. Only few people may be equipped with the necessary intellectual capability and social environment required for the practice of it. However, Prapatti is an independent path which guarantees the same benefits.

More of this will be discussed at a later stage in this chapter.

3. As an extension to the practice of Prapatti, the accessibility (Saulabhya) of the Supreme Being (Sriman Narayana) to a simple devotee has been specially handled. Brahman is not, for Sri Ramanujacharya, a featureless, attributeless, indefinite vague presence unsuited for worship and adoration. The Supreme person has an archetypal form (which does not limit Him and he can take any form He wishes). According to the Sri Vaishnava theology, the Supreme Being has five aspects. Refer to the diagram given below –

Para: Sriman Narayana in His transcendent status of Vaikuntha. Vyuha: These are emanations of the Supreme Sriman Narayana Vibhava: Special manifestation as Avatara.

Antaryamin: Indweller in the Universe as a whole and in all its parts. Archa: Consecrated Divine images in great temples.


A more detailed discussion on the aspects of the Supreme Being is being included at the end of this chapter.

In Gadya Trayam, we will be seeing Lord Narayana in His transcendent status and the Archavatar being discussed.

4. Gadya Trayam consists of three prose pieces composed by Sri Ramanujacharya. In these commentaries the Acharya emphasizes Bhakti/ Prapatti as the surest means to attain salvation.In the Vaishnava parlance, Gadya Trayam ranks in importance to the other popular Trayas like – Loka Traya, Kaala Traya, Tattva Traya (Cit, Acit and Ishvara), Nama Traya (Narayana, Vishnu, Vasudeva) etc.

It has already been indicated that Eastern religions are distinguished by the emphasis they lay on experience than on authority. Gadya Trayam is a work based on the direct experience by the Sri Ramanujacharya.

Sriman Narayana (Para Vasudeva)


Poornavatar Amsavatara

The “Brahmotsavam” at Srirangam takes place in the Tamil month of Panguni. On the last date (under the asterism Uttiram) the Utsava moorthy of Lord Ranganaatha is seated on the same dias as the Goddess Ranganayaki. This is celebrated only once a year. On one such occasion, Sri Ramanujacharya, fearing the fate of his self and humanity in this Samsaara poured out his heart to the Divine couple. The outcome of this dialogue is Saranaagati Gadya. This is in the form of a dialogue between the Acharya and the Divine couple.

5. Sri Ramanujacharya denotes the Supreme Being as Brahman, Narayana, Bhagavan, Purushottama, Vishnu etc. Sriman Narayana takes characteristics such as – Satyam (Truth unconditioned and changeless), Jnanam (all comprehending knowledge), Anandam (immeasurable bliss), Amalatva (incorruptible purity –





Svayam- vyakta

Daiva Arsha


Vasudeva Sankarsha Pradyumna



freedom from karma). They are known as His Swaroopa or inherent nature. knowledge), Anantam (excellence unlimited categories of time and Apart from these, the Acharya goes on to describe His Kalyana Gunas – countless auspicious qualities. These are called Svabhava. The popular ones are – Jnaana, (omniscience), Bala (omnipotence), Aishvarya (lordship), Shakti (creative power), Virya (immutability), Tejas (splendour), Gambhirya (inestimable grandeur), Audaarya (generosity), and Karunya (compassion).With these attributes the Acharya rejects the concept that the Supreme Being is without any Gunas. Gadya Trayam deals elaborately with the Swaroopa and Kalyana Gunas of Sriman Narayana.

In the theology of Sri Vaishnavism the concept of Sri has a great importance. On account of the importance attached to the Divine consort, the system has come to be known as Sri Vaishnavism and the God as Sriman Narayana. Sri, the consort, is co-eternal with Lord Vishnu. She is Anapaayini (ever united with Him). She is the Mother of the Universe who extends Divine accessibility to even unworthy men. As a mother Her love extends to even the most undeserving. In the Vaishnava rituals, prayer to Sri for Her grace takes precedence over the prayer to Lord Narayana Himself.

Accordingly, the text of Saranaagati Gadya begins with a prayer to Sri Devi. The Acharya seeks that Sri Devi should intercede on his behalf and see that Her beloved husband, Lord Ranganaatha, accepts the Acharya’s prayers and grant his wish of accepting his service.

The Supreme Brahman, Sriman Narayana, is the creator, container and the cause for everything –Sarvakaaranatva. He transcends everything (paratva). Yet how is He then easily accessible by all His devotees? How do you explain His easy accessibility – Saulabhya? Two opportunities are presented – (a) during an Avatara (b) Images or Archas that stand for extreme accessibility.

Well have known incarnations such as Sri Ramachandra and Sri Krishna. The Lord appears as a human being and lives among them. During the Avatara, the Lord leaves behind highly evocative stories of his activities and spiritual revelations. However, Avataras appear once in an age only. Men are then left to contemplate on the accounts of their lives.

Consecrated images, Archas, give an excellent opportunity. Archas may be classified into four categories.




Svayam-vyakta: This refers to a class of Images that are believed to have been self- created. Examples are – images found in temples such as Srirangam, Tirupathi, Kanchi etc.

Divya: Refers to images that have been installed and consecrated by Divinities such as Brahma, Indra.


(c) Arsha: Images installed and consecrated by sages and seers such as Bhrigu and Markandeya

(d) Manusha: Images installed and consecrated by men and women either in temples or in their houses.

The worship of idols consecrated by Divine presence is of Vedic origin. “We read in the Atharva-Veda that a sage, Atharva by name, pays obeisance to a “prastara” (stone) which belongs to sages and is sanctified by Divinity. “Prastara” is the precursor of the colloquial “patthar”. It is clear some stone is referred to in the Vedic verse. From Panini’s aphorisms (5.2.101; 5.3.96; 5.3.99) we know that in the 5th century BC images were made both for selling and worshipping. We are here reminded in Valmiki’s narration that (1) Rama and Sita spent a night of devotion in temple dedicated to Him (2) flags were hoisted in temples (3) Rama, Sita and Lakshmana visited temples dedicated to Vishnu and other deities in the hermitage of Agastya.

According to the Vaishnava theology, consecrated images have a Divine presence. Sriman Narayana, unlike in incarnations, is always there as the Archa for the devotees to commune with through the senses of vision and touch and through devoted adoration. Sri Ramanujacharya, himself, sets a great example while worshipping at the temples in Kanchipuram and Srirangam.

8.Sriman Narayana:

The form: The basis of assigning a form to the Deities is in the Vedas. The Rig Veda refers to His masculine form. He is tall and has a superb physique. Yajur Veda refers to His right and left hands. Isa Upanishad reveals that the Deity’s form as the most gracious.

The complexion: According to Bhagavatam, the colour of the Divine is blue like a blue lotus (indivara). His form is very youthful. While Lord Vishnu is blue, the complexion of Goddess Lakshmi is golden hue.

The Puranas tell us these divine Ayudhas (missiles) are not merely ordinary inert objects. They have anthropomorphic aspects as-well. These Ayudhas, when not in actual use, assume personal forms and attend The Puranas tell us that divine ornaments and Ayudhas (missiles) are not merely ordinary inert objects. They have anthropomorphic aspects as-well. The Ayudhas, when not in actual use, assume personal forms and attend on the Master. They do have a Divine nature in them. Thus it should be understood that the ornaments and the missiles associated with Lord Narayana have two aspects – impersonal and personal. In their impersonal aspect they serve as a jewel or a missile. However, in their


personal and anthropomorphic aspect they serve the Lord as His servant and perform specific duties.

The ornaments:

The prominent ornaments of Lord Narayana are – (a) Vaijayanti (b) Vanamaala

(c) Kaustubha

(a) Vaijayanti: It is a knee long necklace studded with five jewels, namely – Emeralds, Rubies, Pearls, Diamonds and Sapphires. However, in her anthropomorphic aspect she is a deity and superintends the five elements of the earth – Prithvi (earth), Apas (water), Tejas (Agni), Vayu (Air), Akasa (ether)

(b) Vanamaala: It is knee long garland of sylvan flora, with a kadamba flower at the center.

(c) Kaustubha: It is a beautiful Ruby pendent for the neck. This is exclusively worn by Lord Vishnu alone. In its anthropomorphic aspect it is a deity and superintends individual souls.

Another exclusive mark of Lord Narayana is Srivatsa. It is the foot print of Sage Bhrigu, which He always wears on His chest. The sage wanted to test the Lord’s excellence and struck Him on the chest with his heels while He was reposing. The Lord got up and instead of showing anger at the insult started massaging the sage’s foot. The sage then felt very much ashamed. In its anthropomorphic aspect, it is a deity superintending the Prakruti.

The Divine missiles:

The Rig Veda reveals that Lord Vishnu has a conch, a disc and a mace in His hands. The Puranas have added a lotus to this list. Thus in His four arm form, the Lord has a conch, a disc, a mace and a lotus.

Panchajanya: Sudarshana:


The name of Vishnu’s conch is Panchajanya. However, in his embodied state, he superintends the Tamas predominant ego. This is Lord Narayana’s discus. During normal times, He attends and serves the Lord. In his embodied form he superintends the cosmic mind.

It is the name of Sri Vishnu’s mace. It is said to be His affectionate weapon. It is golden in colour and is too heavy for anyone other




than the Lord to lift. In her personal aspect she superintends the Intellect.

Saarngna is Lord Vishnu’s bow in impersonal appearance. But in his personal appearance he superintends rajas- predominant ego. The bow is ever ready to protect persons of devotion.

The name of the Lord’s sword is Nandaka. It is so called because it gladdens devotees in its presence by destroying their antagonists. It is omniscience personified and is, therefore called, Vidyadhara. In his personal he superintends the cosmic knowledge.

Notes: (1) The Gadya text in English is not being included. For one thing, the beauty of the masterpieces cannot be brought out. Secondly, it is not easily readable. It is recommended that the reader procures a copy either in Sanskrit, Hindi, Telugu or Tamil.

(2) The translation of the text is not literal : Gadya Trayam consists of three Sanskrit prose pieces composed by Sri Ramanujacharya. They are – Sharanagati Gadyam, Sriranga Gadyam and Vaikuntha Gadyam. Out of this, Sharanagati Gadyam is a long piece. Sriranga Gadyam is an abridged version of the same. The third Vaikuntha Gadyam is believed to have been composed by him while he was at Melkote.

In the Sharanagati Gadyam the Acharya offers to the Lord in general terms. In the second Sriranga Gadyam he offers his prayers particularly addressed to Lord Sri Ranganaatha –present in the town of Sri Rangam in archa form. In Vaikuntha Gadya he offers his Upadesa to all devotees regarding what could be expected in the Land of ultimate bliss – Vaikuntha.

Gadya Trayam is credited as a commentary on the Dvaya mantra. Dvaya mantra is referred to as Mantra ratna. This along with Stotra ratna (by Sri Yamunacharya) and Purana ratna (Vishnu Purana) establish the essence of Sri Vaishnavism. The first part of the Dvaya mantra speaks of Sharanagati (unconditional surrender) at the feet of the Lord and the second part talks about service to the Divine couple.

Sharanaagati Gadyam

Sharanagati Gadyam is a record of conversations between Sri Ramanujacharya, Lord Ranganaatha and His consort Goddess Ranganayaki. On Panguni uttiram day in Srirangam while Lord Ranganaatha sat in court with His consort on His Divine throne, Sri Ramanuja stood before them, surrendered himself and his all, to the Divine couple and begged that all his earthly sins be pardoned and that he be accepted in the service of the Divine couple. He got so accepted and in addition he was assured that all his spiritual protégés would be accorded the same benefits.


The text of the Sharanagati Gadyam begins with a prayer to Goddess Sreedevi. Sreedevi is in eternal association with Lord Narayana. The Dvaya mantra emphasizes this point. She is ever present to intercede on behalf of devotees who approach Him. By Himself, He may either accept the request of the devotee because of His innate mercy or reject the request because of His sense of justice which calls for punishment for sins committed. Sri, the mother, sees to it that the devotee is forgiven and his prayers accepted.

1. Om.BhagavannabhimataanuroopaSwaroopa…… …ananya sharanah sharana maham prapadye.

Free Translation:

O Sreedevi, mother of the Universe, more particularly my mother, Divine queen of the Supreme Lord of all the Devas, pure and faultless, ever inseparably united with Him, full of all auspicious qualities, with virtues liked by the Lord, worthy and matching those of Bhagavan Narayana having a divine charming form, I seek resort in you. I have no other resort and you are my sole resort.


(1) The characteristics forming Svabhava of Lord Narayana are identified with six qualities (Bhagas) described in the Vishnupurana as powers characterizing the Bhagavan. They are (a) Jnana (omniscience – all knowing) (b) Shakti (creative power) (c) Bala (omnipotence) (d) Aishvarya (lordship) (e) Virya (immutability) (f) Tejas (splendour). Lord Narayana has the Bhagas, and for this reason He is always addressed as Bhagavan.

(2 The word Narayana refers to the indwelling supporter of all (creations). The need for mentioning the word Narayana is to remind us that Narayana and Sreedevi are inseparable. She is Vishnupatni and He is Sriyahpati. They are inseparable – Vishnoh esa Anapaayini.

(3) She is dear to Him (abhimata) in all respects – in form and qualities (anuroopa and vigraha)

(4) The word Guna is used twice. The first one refers to Roopa Guna and indicates beauty of form and limbs. The second one indicates Kalyana Guna and refers to auspicious qualities like love, affection accessibility etc.


(5) Some of the Kalyana gunas that characterize the Goddess are enumerated. Vibhava denotes possession great and enjoyable wealth. Being His beloved wife, all that is His is also Hers. Hence, She has Aishvarya (lordship and sovereignty). Even the Sarveshvara listens to Her. Sila refers to the ability to mix freely. This one word contains – easy accessibility, motherly love and affection.

(6) Padmavanaalayam indicates that She is a resident in a cluster of lotuses.

(7) Bhagavati – The word is used to indicate fitness for worship and respectability.

(8) The word Shriyam signifies a number of things. Shriyate is one who is worshipped by all beings to act as a mediator for acceptance by the Lord. Shrayate is one who seeks the Lord for saving the devotees who approach the divine couple. She patiently hears the devotees and makes them heard by the Lord. She forgives the faults of Her children. The word Devim indicates the aspect of divinity associated with Her.

(9) Nityanapaayinim denotes that she inseparable from Lord Narayana. (10) Niravadyam denotes Her faultless quality

(11) Deva Deva Divyamahishi means She is the queen of the emperor of emperors.

(12) Akhila jagan maataram. Means mother of all beings in the universe. (13) Asman maataram. She is my mother.

(14) Asharanya sharanyam. Indicates she is the refuge for a refuge-less

person like me, says the Acharya

(15) Ananya sharanah. I have no other place to go.

(16) Sharanamaham prapadye. I pray to the divine mother to grant me


2. ParamaarthikaBhagavacharanaaravinda…

….. sharanaagatih yathaavasthita avirataastu me

Free Translation:

O Sreedevi, I pray and seek your blessings that my sincere and true Sharanagati at the feet of Lord Narayana be accepted and my desire granted. The one and only desire that I have is to be in the service (any form of service) of the Lord at all times and under all circumstances. Having attained the infinite and unsurpassed bliss of Bhagavad Anubhava, full, continuous, eternal, clear, and having no other end in view – the experience which has resulted from Parabhakti, Prajnanam and Parama-Bhakti, may I become the eternal servant of


Bhagavan finding my sole joy in fulfilling all His purposes in all states and situations without any exception, owing to the infinite and unequalled delight arising from such an experience. This is the ultimate desire that anyone can have and nothing better is possible. At the same time the reward of the joy of Divine experience is also the ultimate that anyone can receive.

One gets to reach the state of Bhagavad Anubhava or Divine experience, gradually, and in stages based on well founded and single minded devotion – Parabhakti (for a vision of the Lord); Parajnaana (direct perception); and Paramabhakti (eagerness for a continuous and un-interrupted experience directed at the lotus feet of the Lord) are the stages.


(1) After a formal expression of surrender at the feet of Mother, Sri Ramanujacharya goes on to convey his desire, a one and only desire, that She persuade the Lord to accept his Sharanagati prayer. The prayer is for the Acharya to be accepted as a prapanna and kainkaryapara (servant). The prayer is for the Acharya to be accepted for eternal and devoted service. The devotion and earning for service on the part of the Acharya is already there and is evident. However, the Acharya felt it appropriate to pray for and obtain it.

(2) The Acharya’s desire to be of service to Lord Narayana, any type of service as long as it is un-interrupted full and clear, he says is due to the incomparable joy of Divine experience (Bhagavad Anubhava) that becomes possible while in service. However, the Divine experience is not easily obtained. It is a result of well founded devotion and the devotee goes through the stages of Parabhakti, Parajnaana and Paramabhakti. It may be appropriate to here to understand the stages of development given in the Vaishnava system.

(2.1) Bhakti is described as the knowledge of Ultimate Reality as one’s highest treasure and the consequent excessive adoration and attachment to Him. Sri Ramanujacharya equates Bhakti with Dhyana (means concentration of mind on Him) and Upasana(continuous thought on Him).The system divides Bhakti into three stages of development.


Karma Yoga- Qualifications

Should be absolutely free from Greed, Lust, Anger, Egoism, Humble, Fearless. He should bear – disrespect, Dishonor, disgrace, harsh words. Have no attachment to fruits of actions. Dedicate his actions to the Lotus feet of God

Bhakti Yoga

Perfect it through Ashtanga Yoga.

General pre requites for Bhakti Yoga -(1) Viveka (2) Vimoka (3) Abhyasa (3) Kriya

(4) Anavasada (5) Anuddarsa

Surrender to the Lord for His grace

Perform Nitya, Naimittika, Kamya activities

Atma avalokana

Jnana Yoga Pre requisites

(Sadhana Chatushtaya)

(1)Vivek (2)Vairagya

(3) Sadhana sampatti (six virtues)

(4) Mumukchutva Seven Stages of Jnana (Jnana Bhumikas)

(1) Subheccha (2) Vicharana (3) Tanumanasi(4) Sattvapatti (5) Asamsakti (6) Padartha Bhavana (7) Turiya

Prapatti Marga

(Surrender to Lord)

The main qualifications for a Mumukshu are –(1)Akinchanyam (2) Ananyagatitvam.Prapatti has the following angas –(1) Anukoolyasya Sankalpam(2) Pratikoolyasya varjanam(3) Karpanyam (4) Maha Vishvasam (5) Goptrtva varanam



Bhagavad anubhava

Parama- Bhakti

Para- Bhakti

Saadhan Bhakti

Suitable only for those people who are permitted Vedic studies and the Upaasana indicated in Vedas


For all people including those who were not eligible for Vedic study and Upaasana indicated in Vedas

(2.2) Sadhana Bhakti: The first requisite for an aspirant at this stage is a strong faith in God as the highest value and a sense of utter transitoriness of worldly achievements. He will then have to turn to the scriptures and a Guru who will impart knowledge on the Self, Nature and God. Duties of life have to be done without attachment. For a success in this one must have an understanding of oneself as an Atman (Atmaavalokana). For this both Karma Yoga and Jnaana Yoga have to be practiced together. With a strong contemplation a highly qualified aspirant can try to overcome the identification of the Atman with the body. For an average aspirant this is very difficult.

(2.3) Para Bhakti: A number of disciplines will need to be practiced for developing Sadhana Bhakti into Prema Bhakti (loving devotion). Briefly they are as follows –

(1)Viveka (Practice of discrimination)

(2)Vimoka (Resisting impulses of passions like anger, sexuality, jealousy



(3) Abyasa (Practice of disciplines like – worship, Japa, visiting holy places etc)

(4) Kriya (Performing fivefold disciplines of life- perform fire sacrifices, duty to Rishis, duty to ancestors, duty towards mankind, duty towards to plants animals)

(5) Kalyana (Practice of virtues like Satya (truth), Arjava (straight- forwardness), Daya (Kindness ), Daana (benevolence) and Ahimsa (love to all animals)

(6) Anavasaada (Freedom from despair, pessimism)

(7) Anuddharsa (Capacity for not yielding to excitement, depression and

preserve an even temperament)

By long and continued practice of these moral disciplines and by the practice of Dhyana (concentration) and Upasana (continuous thought of God) the mind of the aspirant gets purified and develops the power to perceive the Divine as his inner self. Divyadristi becomes possible as a matter of Grace of the Divine and one sees all as in Him as His body. This is the synthesis of Para-Bhakti, Parajnaana and Parama-Bhakti. This stage is marked by unalloyed devotion and the devotee has occasional vision which kindles his desire for this to become constant. At this stage his faith is strengthened by the glow of love and develops into Para-Bhakti. The mind of the Bhakta, even without external stimulation goes towards the Lord in place of sense objects.

This is intensified when the devotee begins to feel the great attraction of the Lord. Bhakti by now would have developed to a -stage called Parama-Bhakti. The devotee becomes mad with love and longing and is always in intimacy with the Lord. There arises in the aspirant a higher knowledge that he is merely a part or liege of the Lord and the Lord is the Sesi (the Master).

(2.4) Prapatti: There is a view that Parama-Bhakti is identical with another path, known in this school, as Prapatti. However, there are some differences. Prapatti is taking refuge in Lord Narayana. It is an independent path offered to all those who do not have the intellectual equipment and the social environment called for by the Bhakti marga. The devotional attitudes that are essential in taking refuge are as follows –

(1)Resolve to subordinate one’s will to that of Lord Narayana at all times (2)Avoidance of all that is contrary to His will

(3)Firm faith that the Lord is the saviour of all

(4)Acceptance that the Lord’s protective grace is always with one.


(5) A feeling of one’s pitiable state owing to a realization of the insufficiency of one’s self effort in the pursuit of Moksha.


Resigning oneself absolutely to Lord Narayana’s care and protection All these attitudes of mind are involved in the Parama-Bhakti path also and in this sense Prapatti and Parama-Bhakti are identical. However, the Parama-Bhakti is the end product of a long and difficult course of discipline and it is not open to all. On the contrary the demands on suitability for those who take to Prapatti are miniscule in comparison and it is open to all. The devotee with unalloyed and unshakable faith in Lord Narayana and His saving grace will surely be rewarded. Strong faith in God, resignation to Him and non-attachment are qualities that link man with Him and elicit His grace. These are more fundamental to Moksha than the self-effort of man.

(2.5)Sri Ramanujacharya’s prayer to Sri Devi starts with “Paaramarthika Bhagavat charanaaravinda Ugala aikaantika atyaantika”. Parama means supreme. The choice of the word Paaramarthika refers to the desire for the highest reward. And the reward that the Acharya is seeking is Bhagavat charanaaravinda Ugala – the lotus feet of Bhagavan Himself. The word Bhagavan is used to refer to the Supreme Lord complete with all His auspicious and desirable qualities.

Using the word aikaantika Acharya conveys that he has no other desire other than this one.

The word atyaantika means eternal. The Acharya desires for uninterrupted, eternal service directed at the lotus feet of the Lord which in turn provides him with eternal Bhagavad Anubhava.

(2.6)“Para-Bhakti, Para-Jnaana, Parama-Bhakti Krita Paripoorna anavarata Nitya vishadatama ananya prayojana anavadhikaatisaya”.

Para-Bhakti, Para-Jnaana, Parama-Bhakti refers to the various stages that have been crossed to reach the pinnacle from where Bhagavad Anubhava has become possible. Paripoorna qualifies the Bhagavad Anubhava. He desires for the divine experience that has the Bhagavan in full glory, not in parts. Such an experience should be uninterrupted- anavarata. It should also be Nitya – continuous. The Acharya desires for a clear comprehension, without any doubt or confusion. He emphasizes that this intense devotion is an end in itself and not a means to some other end – ananya prayojana. Bhagavad Anubhava of the Lord in His heavenly abode (Paramapada) is an experience in limitless bliss


(2.7)“Priya Bhagavad anubhava Janita anavadhikaatisaya preeti kaarita kainkarya “

As a result of the limitless ecstasy of the divine experience a yearning for service to the beloved is born.

(2.8)“Asheshavastochita asesa sesataika ratiroopa Nitya kainkarya praaptya apekshayaa

paaramaarthika Bhagavad charanaaravinda Sharanagati yathaavasthita avirata

astu me’ “

Now the Acharya, having stated he has a desire for service, qualifies the service he has prayed for. Asheshavastochita indicates that he prepared to do service in any state – in the court, in the inner apartments or anywhere that is desired. asesa sesataika ratiroopa indicates that the Acharya is prepared to do all kinds of service without any exception (waving the fan, holding the umbrella) the primary object being that the Lord should be pleased. With this prayer, the Acharya offers total surrender, Sharanagati, at the lotus feet of the Lord – Bhagavad charanaaravinda Sharanagati. The choice of the Bhagavad implies that the Lord, who has the full power, knowledge and authority, can grant this desire without any assistance or approval. Paaramaarthika here means true and proper form. Yathaavasthita means as it should be. In essence, it rejects all other means except Sharanagati. avirata astu me’ – This signifies that the state of total surrender will continue, uninterrupted, till the wish is granted.

3. Astute;tyaivasarvamsampasyate

This is Sri Devi’s reply to the Acharya. She says “So it shall be. By it (Sharanagati) all your wishes will be fulfilled. It is also interpreted that the fruits of his Sharanagati will continue to be available to all his spiritual heirs.

4.1 Akhila heya pratyanika kalyaana eikataana …… ……………………….. jnaanaanadaikasvaroopa


Having received the blessing from Sri Devi, the Acharya proceeds to directly address Lord Narayana, since he is seeking eternal and loving service to the Lord Himself.

Having come face to face with Sri Devi and Lord Narayana, the Acharya in his


exuberance, gushes forth bringing out all the pre-eminent aspects of the Lord. This is not to be considered flattery for many reasons. There is no one anywhere near to the Lord in terms of the Gunas and His capabilities. Not even the Devas can comprehend the range of the Lord’s powers and capabilities. So no praise can do any justice to His pre-eminence.

Heya refers to anything that is undesirable. In the case of matter, the susceptibility to change with time is inherent and is not desirable. Jeevas are of three grades –

Nityasuris, Muktas and Baddhas. – The Nityasuris (Adi Shesha, Garuda, Vishvaksena and Sudarshana) have never been in bondage of Karma and Samsara. They are always in attendance on Him and serve Him.

The Muktas are those who after many births have been liberated from Samsara. The Baddhas refer to the majority of us who have not been liberated from


All these categories of Jeevas have some short coming or other. The Nityasuris are in service; the Muktas are dependent; the Baddhas undergo the cycle of birth and death. However, Lord Narayana is free from all these. He is distinctly different from all others other than Himself. Moreover, He is not tainted by coming into contact with anything lowly. On the contrary, He can destroy all evil in others.

kalyaana eikataana – it means He is the abode of everything that is auspicious with no possibility at all of being in-auspicious in any part.

svetara samasta vastu vilakshana – means that He is distinctly different from every one of the others – other than Himself.

ananta – means infinite. He is not limited by space or time. He is immanent in all in all objects – sentient and non-sentient

jnaanaanadaikasvaroopa – It means He is Jnaana aikasvaroopa. He is self effulgent knowledge. He is the source for all knowledge. Similarly He is also ananda aikasvaroopa. He is pure bliss.


4.2 Svabhimataanuroopaikaroopaachintya …………………….. ……………………….gunanidhi divya roopa

Sri Ramanujacharya then proceeds to describe the auspicious Divine form – Divya mangala vigraha.

Just as God has a special name, though He may have several other subsidiary ones too, He has also got a special Divine form which is not a manifestation of a formless consciousness or a temporarily assumed one to favor a devotee, but an ultimate fact. The excellences of the Divine form are given in the Gita Bhashya by Sri Ramanujacharya. The form described is as follows – “His one permanent celestial form is a treasure store of infinite qualities such as radiance, beauty, fragrance, tenderness, charm and youthfulness which are inconceivable, celestial, wondrous, eternal, flawless, supremely excellent and appropriate to Him” Very often, we come across descriptions of beauty and grace of the Divine form. Maharshi Vyasa has described the beauty and elegance of the form of Sri Vishnu in sonorous words and fascinating style. The basis of assigning form to the deity is in the Vedas. The devotees pray to Him not to conceal His form from them. The descriptions given by Sri Ramanujacharya in the Sharanagati Gadya, on the form of Lord Vishnu are the most vivid of the Deity you can ever find in any literature

Free Translation

Your divine form is most agreeable and suitable for you. It is unchanging, incomparable, divine and wonderful, eternal, pure faultless, of incomparable brilliance, possessed of unique loveliness of form and limbs exuding a very pleasant odor, charmingly soft, ever youthful – a form that is far beyond anything ever witnessed by anyone, possessing all excellences in infinite measure.


Sva abhimata – The Lord can take any form He likes. In this case, it is a form which confirms to His wish and is dear to Him

anuroopa – The form exudes all Divine qualities.

ekaroopa – The form is changeless. In the case of human beings, our form

changes all the time – from to death. That is not the case with Lord Narayana. 303

Achintya – cannot be understood by comparing it with anything or anybody. The fact is- there is nothing comparable to it.

Divya – Divine. Among the three elements of Sattva, Rajas and Tamas constituting the Prakruti, Sattva is considered Ashuddha or impure as there is a mixture of Rajas and Tamas in it. . The Vaishnava system recognizes a category outside Prakruti, designated as Shuddha-Satva or Pure Sattva., which has not even the slightest of Rajas and Tamas. For this reason it is not included in Prakruti. Shuddha-Sattva has a very important place in the theology Of Sri Ramanujacharya. It is called non-material spiritual stuff and this is the stuff which constitutes the body of Lord Narayana.

Adbhuta – means wonderful

Nitya niravadya – means eternally faultless. The structure and the form of the

Lord are faultless or blemish less.

niratishaya aujvalya – The Lord’s form dazzles with incomparable brilliance. The bright rays emanating from His body are similar to those of a million Suns in brilliance.

soundarya, saugandhya – The beauty of the each one of the limbs, the entire body structure and the overall form are breathtaking. There is nothing comparable to this anywhere. For this reason, devotees fortunate to see Him, pray not to conceal His form from them. The Lord’s body exudes a very pleasant odor.

Sau-kumarya- indicates that He is most charming.

Laavanya – Refers to the Lord’s enchanting beauty of the form as a whole.

ananta gunanidhi- Lord Narayana is treasure house of innumerable excellences. Divya roopa- indicates that His form is celestial

4.3 svaabhaavika anavadhikaatishaya ……………. ……….kalyaana guna ganaugha mahaarnavaa

The Acharya now moves on to describe the Kalyana gunas – countless auspicious qualities.


Free Translation

The Lord is addressed here as a vast ocean filled with countless fitting (natural) incomparable, insuperable auspicious qualities. The characteristics forming Svabhaava (inherent nature) are identified with six qualities (Bhagas) described in Vishnu Purana as powers characterizing the Bhagavan (God). They are Jnaana (omniscience – all pervading knowledge), Bala (omnipotence), Aishvarya (lordship), Shakti (creative power), Virya (immutability) and Tejas (splendour). The auspicious qualities are, countless. The Acharya then brings to light a few of the kalyaana gunas.


Svabhavika anavadhika atishaya – The most natural, basic and limitless excellence of the Lord are being described

Jnaana – refers to His all pervading knowledge

Bala – Refers to His ability to carry the entire cosmos by sheer will

Aishvarya – Refers to His un paralleled lordship over the entire cosmos.

Virya – Refers to His ability to bear and rule all the worlds without a sign of tiredness; unalterable nature despite the material cause of all creations.

Shakti – refers to His ability for creation, activate His creations, ability to carry out unbelievable and unimaginable tasks.

Tejas – Splendour

The above six are inherent qualities which are unique to the Lord. The next set of kalyaana gunas are for the benefit of His devotees.

sausheelya – ability to freely mix with every other being without any trace of condescension. Examples are Sri Rama’s interactions with Guha and Shabari. Vaatsalya – It signifies tender protective love like the one exhibited by a mother cow towards the young calf. Sri Ramanujacharya describes the Lord as “aashrita vaatsalya vivasaha” – one who is overwhelmed by tender protective love for the devotee who is absolutely dependent on Him

aarjava – means straightforwardness. Also signifies oneness in thought and deed. sauhaarda – well intentioned friendliness

saamya – accessible to all.

kaarunya – mercy to all. He shows mercy and compassion to all creatures without expecting any praise or profit

maadhurya – sweetness. He is sweet to all beings under all circumstances. gaambhirya – inestimable grandeur

audaarya – generosity


chaaturya – means He is very clever.

sthairya – He has a great strength of mind and firm determination

dhairya – courageous and absolutely fearless

shaurya – ability to destroy the enemies of all His devotees.

paraakrama – courage to be always in the offensive in the presence of enemies satya kaama – whatever the Lord desires will come true

satya sankalpa – whatever the Lord resolves will come true. This and the above are unique qualities of the Lord.

krititva – The Lord feels satisfied when the devotees wish has been fulfilled. kritajnata – remembrance. Once the devotee surrenders to the Lord, He overlooks all his faults and remembers only his surrender.

aadi asankhyeya kalyaana guna gana ogha mahaarnavaa – He possesses these and many more countless auspicious qualities which are not mentioned. He is like an ocean of kalyaana gunas.

1.4 svochita vividha vichitraanantaascharya …………………… aparimata divya bhooshana

Having described Lord Narayana’s kalyaana gunas, the Acharya proceeds to describe the ornaments that He adorns. They are exclusive and befitting the Supreme Lord.

svochita – These ornaments match the beauty of His form vividha – a variety of ornaments are worn by the Lord. vichitra – a range of colorful ornaments are worn by Him anantaascharya – immensely wonderful

nitya niravadya – ever without any fault. These ornaments are also Nityasuris (ever emancipated souls, whose sole aim is to serve the Lord)

niratishaya – indicates the limitless excellence of the ornaments saugandha – ornaments have a sweet odor

sukha sparsha – soft to the touch


niratishaya aujvalya – points to the limitless splendour of the ornaments

kireeta, mukuta, cudaavatamsa – refers to a variety of crowns worn by Him – one to signify His absolute Supremacy; another to signify His easy accessibility by His devotees; a third to signify His chivalry

makara kundala – an ornament for the lower lobe shaped like a makara (sea fish)

graiveyaka – refers to a necklace

haara – rows of chains adorning the chest

Keyoora – armlet

kataka – ornament for the fore arm.

Srivatsa – This refers to the unique mark on the chest of Lord Narayana. It is listed here as a jewel

kaustubha – a celebrated ornament worn only by Lord Narayana indicative of His Supremacy

muktaadaama – a string of exquisite pearls

udaraabandhana – waist band

peetaambara – a beautiful yellow dress worn by Lord Narayana

kancheeguna – a golden belt enhancing the luster of peetaambara noopura- exquisite anklet worn by the Lord. This is where the devotees want to keep their heads.

aadi aparimita divya bhooshana – He adorns these and many more divine ornaments.


4.5.1.svaanuroopaachintya shakti ………………. ………………………. kalyaana divyaayudha

The Acharya now moves on to describe the divine weapons that the Lord carries. It may be appropriate to recall the earlier observation regarding the ornaments and weapons that the Lord sports. We said earlier – the divine ornaments and Ayudhas (missiles) are not merely ordinary inert objects. They have anthropomorphic aspects as-well. The Ayudhas, when not in actual use, assume personal forms and attend on the Master. They do have a Divine nature in them.

svaanuroopa – Befitting the Lord, the weapons shine like ornaments and adorn Him

achintya shakti – means unimaginable prowess. The weapons, when employed, carry incomprehensible prowess.

shanka, chakra, gadaa, asi, saargna- Among the Ayudhas that the Lord carries are – Panchajanya (conch), Sudarshana (chakra), Koumodaki (gadaa), Saargna (bow).

asankyeya divya aayudha – countless celestial weapons are carried by the Lord.

4.6. Svaabhimata nityaniravadyaanuroopa ………………….., .evambhoota bhoomi neelaanaayaka

Here the Acharya praises the consorts of Lord Narayana – Sreedevi, Bhudevi and Neeladevi.

O Lord, you are the beloved consort of Sreedevi (Srivallabha). Befitting you, Sreedevi is eternally (Nitya), faultless and possesses countless unlimited unsurpassed auspicious qualities like sovereignty, glory and graciousness. Neeladevi and Bhudevi who also have similar auspicious qualities are your consorts


4.7 svachandaanuvartti svarupa sthiti ………….. …. Parichaarikaa paricharita charana yugala

Free Translation

The Acharya now describes the attendants, or parijanas, who serve the Lord Narayana and Sri Devi. O Lord, you are served by a host of followers, men and women waiting at your Divine feet to minister to your needs and comforts. Their nature, existence and actions conform to your will and pleasure. Ananta (Adi shesha), Garuda, Vishvaksena and others, together with their wives, are serving you and their sole delight is in pleasing you. They are endowed with essential features such as – eternal and faultless service, unsurpassed knowledge, devotion, activity and unlimited ability to get things done in service.


Sesha, Seesasana, Garuda pramukha, naanaavidha ananta parijana, parichaarika: The leading personalities (pramukha) serving (parijana) the Lord are Adi Sesha, Vishvaksena and Garuda. In addition there are countless attendants, male and female, (naanaavidha, ananta parijana, paricharika) doing a variety of services. They are waiting at your Divine feet to be of service to you.

svacchandaanuvrtti: It indicates that their (parijana) actions are in conformity of the Lord’s wishes. They could intuitively foresee the needs and desires of the Lord. An example is the legendary service of Lakshmana to Sri Rama.

asesasesataika ratirupa: These celestial attendants attend to the needs of the Lord when commanded. However, they are eager and engage themselves in all forms of service to the Lord. Their service is eternal (Nitya).

niravadya niratishaya Jnaana, kriya, aishvarya: Remembering that these attendants are outstanding celestial beings, they are endowed with countless beneficent and desirable qualities such as unsurpassed knowledge, devotion, activity and unlimited ability to act in Lord’s service. In addition they carry out actions (kriya) consistent with their knowledge. They have an enormous ability to command others and get things done in the Lord’s service (Aishvarya).


4.7.Paramayogi vaakmanasaa paricchedya…………. ………………….niratishaya Sri Vaikuntanaadhaa

Sri Ramanujacharya then shifts his attention to the abode of Lord Narayana – Paramapada – Vaikunta. Vaikunta of divine splendour and the bodies of all its denizens, consisting of Lord Narayana’s constant attendants (Nityasuris) and liberated Jivas are made of Suddha-satwa. Time, to which all entities are included in Prakruti are subject, has no sway on it.

Free Translation:

O, Lord of Vaikunta the eternal, faultless and immeasurable land. It abounds with innumerable objects and places of enjoyment all appropriate to you. This abode is infinitely wonderful, supreme in glory, faultless, unchanging (immutable) and beyond the comprehension of even the greatest of Yogis.


The abode of Lord Narayana (Vaikunta naadha) is a land of immeasurable greatness and is incomprehensible and cannot be described even by Supreme Yogis (Paramayogi vaakmanasaa paricchedya). One cannot site an example to describe the land, because, nothing like that exits other than itself. It has been created entirely as per His desire (svaabhimata). It is full of many kinds of (vividha), wonderful (vichitra), enjoyable sights, sounds, fragrance (bhogya). Also, it abounds with enjoyable objects (bhogopakarana) like unfading flower gardens and have attendants eager to serve and the like. It has places of enjoyment (bhogasthana). Full with all these, the place is amazing beyond all belief (ananta aascharya) because the objects of enjoyment present ever new facets (ananta mahaavibhava) – all of immeasurable greatness. Jewels, thrones, gardens, rivulets, pools appropriately located beautify the places. These appear to be neither new or old or crafted by anybody. The entire abode is infinite in dimension (ananta parimaana). The Vaikunta remains ever the same (time has no sway on the place), free from any flaws, and great beyond all measures. However, the enjoyers of this wealth (Bhoktas) have only one goal – to be of service to the Divine couple and they derive their pleasure in seeing the pleasure of the Divine couple.


4.9. svasankalpaanuvidhaayi`svarupa sthiti ……………… …………………………………………. Vibhava laya leela

The Acharya now handles the subject of the role of Lord Narayana in the creation, sustenance and dissolution of Prakruti and the Jivas.

Some Background on the Vishishtaadvaita system

The Vishishtaadvaita system accepts three entities as ultimate realities (a) Brahman (b) Jiva or Chit (c) Prakruti or Achit. Of these, Brahman is the absolute and independent reality. The other two Jiva and Prakruti are dependent realities. The three together are called “Tattvatraya”. The Jivas and Jagat are held together in inseparable union (Aprthaksiddhi) with the Supreme Being. Lord Narayana. They have no existence apart from Him. There can be no separation between Jiva and Brahman. Similar is the case between Jagat and Brahman. In a state of ignorance the Jiva may not know it. Jiva and Jagat always exist as a part of Brahman as His Body or Mode. Jivas and Jagat exist in two states – one during Pralaya (dissolution) and the other during Srishti (creation). Pralaya and Srishti are eternally continuing states like day and night. The motivating power between these two states is the will of God. In the Pralaya state Jivas and Jagat would be reduced to their primordial condition and would be latent in the Brahman without nay distinction. In Srishti, caused by the will of Brahman they gain patency and diversity through a process of evolution.

Free Translation:

O Lord, creation, sustenance and dissolution are your sport (Lord Narayana’s Lilavibhuti). This world of your creation is filled with diverse, wonderful and innumerable objects of enjoyment, instruments of enjoyment and places for enjoyment. Samsaara involves the interplay of Prakruti, Purusha and Kaala. By nature all these three are ever under your control.


sva sankalpaanu vidhaayi: The nature, existence and activity of the worlds follow your will


Prakruti: Among these, Prakruti is the substratum of the three Gunas – satva, rajas and tamas. It is conditioned by Kaala and for this reason it changes in size and form. It is Jada (not self revealing; insentient) by category. It is used and consequently responsible for good and bad experiences of the Jivas.

Jivas: It is Ajada (sentient) by category. It is associated and sustained by Prakruti in the form of food. In the system of Sri Ramanujacharya Prakruti along with Karma is called Avidya (ignorance) and Maya. Prakruti, activated by Divine will functions in order to bring the Karma of the Jivas to fruition.

Kaala: Kaala occupies a special position in the system by Sri Ramanujacharya. While Brahman and Jiva are characterized under Cit, all others come under Prakruti as Achit (insentient). However, outside the bounds of Prakruti there is an entity (entity without the three Gunas) which is called Kaala (Time). Kaala resides in Him but does not dissolve in Him during Pralaya. It is called insentient. It is a special Vibhuti (unique glory) of Lord Narayana. The whole creative and dissolution process of Prakruti is regulated by this category by the will of God. The Prakruti has countless number (ananta) of (vividha), wonderful (vichitra), enjoyable sights, sounds, fragrance (bhogya). Also, it abounds with enjoyable objects (bhogopakarana) like flowers, gardens and have attendants eager to serve and the like. It has places of enjoyment (bhogasthana svasesateka Swaroopa: Prakruti, Jivas and Kaala are subservient to the Lord.

4.10.satya kaama satya sankalpa parabrahmabhoota Purushottama mahaavibhute Sriman Narayana srivaikuntanaatha

The Acharya goes on praise the Lord highlighting some of His outstanding qualities. He follows it up with a renewal of his request to accept Sharanagati at the Lord’s feet.

satya kaama: His wishes will always come true.

satya sankalpa: Whatever He resolves will come true.


parabrahmabhoota: He who is recognized as the Parabrahman – the Supreme Being

Purushottama: He is the best of all beings mahaavibhute: He who possesses limitless wealth. Sriman: Lord of Goddess Sri.

Narayana: He who is the Ayana (dwelling place) i.e. the source, support, and dissolving ground of all naras or Jivas including inert matter too. He is the Supreme Being. By addressing the Lord as Sriman Narayana, the Acharya implies that the Divine couple forms the Supreme goal to be attained.

srivaikuntanaatha: Lord of Vaikunta (Paramapada)

4.11 apaarakaarunya sausheelya vaatsalya audaarya aishvarya soundarya mahodadhe

anaalochita vishesaasesaloka saranya pranataartihara aashrita vaatsalyaikajadhe

The Acharya then goes on to describe the special qualities of Lord Narayana in relation to providing protection to all who come to Him. He is giving expression which claims the Lord’s “aashrayaniyatva”.

apaara Kaarunya: The word apaara means limitless. Apaara Kaarunya means infinite compassion. The Lord shows mercy to even those people who consider Him as their enemy.

sausheelya: He mixes easily with all people coming to meet Him

vaatsalya: signifies tender protective love audaarya: Generosity. He gives His devotees what they prayed for and yet feels as if He is the beneficiary.

aishvarya: inestimable lordship

soundarya: excellent formation and beauty of the limbs.


mahodadhe: means an ocean. The above qualities are boundless in magnitude.

anaalochita visesa: Aalochita means carefully thought out and considered. Here the Lord’s refuge is granted to any devotee without any consideration for birth, conduct or knowledge.

asesaloka saranya: The saranya or refuge is available for the residents of any loka. There is no distinction or preference. He is the universal refuge.

pranataartihara: He who removes the ills of all that come to Him.

aashrita vaatsalyaikajaladhe: Refers to His boundless love and affection to His devotees. Even undesirables such as the worst sinners are treated as desirables. That is the incomparable glory of Lord Narayana.

4.12 Anavarata viditanikhilabhoota jaata ……………… …..satya kaama satya sankalpa sakaletara vilakshana

The Acharya continues with his praise of the Lord and pleads for the grant of his requests.

anavarata viditanikilabhoota jaatayatatmya: Refers to one who knows the true nature of all beings all the time. This indicates the Lord is omnipresent (present everywhere including within us. Vyaapnoteeti Vishnuh. He who pervades everything is Vishnu. He pervades everything but nothing ever pervades Him) and omniscient (all knowing). He knows our shortcomings and our helplessness.

ashesha charaachara bhoota nikhila niyamana nirataa: One who commands everything, both objects / beings chara (mobile) and achara (immobile). There is nothing that is not subservient to Him.

ashesa chid achid vastu seshibhhoota: He is the Lord and possessor of all that is sentient and non-sentient. It would appear that the Acharya is mildly implying that it would be duty of the master to take care of his possessions (should you not take care of my needs as well.


nikhila jagadaadhaaraa: Refers to the Lord as the sustainer of all the worlds. The Acharya is pleading why the Lord is forgetting his existence.

akhila jagat svamin: Refers to the Lord as the master of the entire Universe. The Acharya pours his anguish and pleads with Him to remove our sins and take us with Him and be under His protective wing forever. asmat svamin: Acharya now directly addresses Him as my svamin – my master.

satya kaama: The Lord does need anything from the devotee – except his devotion. We, the Jivas, do not have any right to claim anything from Him. He could lift us from this Samsara through His grace, provided He is pleased with us and desires it. He does not require a permission or agreement from anyone.

satya sankalpa: The will of the Lord always comes true. Acts which seem impossible to us will come true with His will. The Acharya implores the Lord to lift even this worthless (me) to the level of the Paramapada where he could serve Lord Narayana.

sakaletara vilakshana: Lord Narayana is the essence of everything that is Supreme. There is nothing comparable to Him. His form, His nature, His qualities are all unique. The Acharya questions the Lord – all these superior aspects are they not meant for the benefit of His devotees? Are they not meant for the benefit of the entire worlds? Surely, they are not meant for His personal enjoyment? Your protection to us will only be complete if You make all these auspicious aspects available for the benefit and enjoyment of all your devotees.

4.13 arthi kalpaka aapatsakha Sriman Narayana asharanya sharanya ananya sharana stvat paadaaravinda ugala sharanamaham prapadye atradvayam

arthi kalpaka: Kalpaka is the name of a divine tree which fulfills all the wishes of the seeker. Here Lord Narayana is being referred to as the Kalpaka tree for His devotees. He grants the wishes of all those who seek Him.

aapatsakha: He is real friend in distress. The Puranas are replete with incidences where He came and rescued His devotees.


Sriman: He is ever associated with Sri Devi

Narayana: Lord Narayana has taken care of us all the time because of natural

irrevocable relationship.

Here it may be in order to review the Sri Ramanuja’s metaphysics. As earlier indicated, the Vishishtaadvaita system accepts three entities as ultimate realities (a) Brahman (b) Jiva or Chit (c) Prakruti or Achit. Of these, Brahman is the absolute and independent reality. The other two Jiva and Prakruti are dependent realities. The three together are called “Tattvatraya”. Sri Ramanuja’s task as a Vedantin is to formulate a theory of unity of all existence in the face of the multiplicity posed by Prakruti and Jivas. According to the Acharya, the unity lies in the fact of Prakruti and Jivas being held together in-separable union (Aprthaksiddhi) in the Supreme Being called – Brahman, Ishvara, Narayana, Purushottama etc. It should be understood that the dependence entirely is on the part of Prakruti and Jivas. He is not dependent on them. Sri Ramanuja has used several expressive terms to describe this inseparable and integral unity. Some of these are – Sareera – Sariri (body and soul); Sesa-Sesi (subordinate and the principal); Prakaara- Prakaari (mode and substance). The irrevocable relationship described above may be understood in this light.

asharanya sharanya: The Lord is the refuge for all those who not have a refuge

ananya sharana stvat paadaaravinda ugala sharanamaham prapadye:

Addressing the Lord the Acharya says that he may be not worthy of the Lord’s protection. But he has no other refuge to go to and seeks Lord Narayana’s lotus feet as his sole refuge.

Atradvayam (manusandeya): The Dvaya mantra is to be repeated here. (To be repeated inaudible to others).


Pitaram, Maataram, daran ……………. ……………..Sharanam tevrajam vibho

These two couplets are from the Puranas. They lend support to the thoughts expressed by the Acharya.

Free translation:

Renouncing father (Pitaram), mother (maataram), wife (daran), son (putran), 316

relatives (bandhun), friends (sakhin), teachers (gurun), jems (ratnani), wealth (dhana dhaanyaani), lands (ksetrani), house (grhaani) and also dharmas aimed at some goals (sarva dharmamcha), all desires (sarva kamamsaca), I seek you my rightful master (saranamte aavrajam vibho). I take refuge at your holy feet – which measured the entire worlds (loka vikranta charanam)


It is important to understand the implication of Sharanagati or total surrender. Refuge at the feet of the Lord will remain as the sole aim for the devotee. Nothing else matters. This automatically involves renunciation of everything that binds one to this world in the pursuit of service to the Lord. Both material and even relationships may require to be renounced.

f)Tvameva Mata cha pita tvameva tvameva bandusca guru tvameva tvameva Vidya dravinam tvameva tvameva sarvam mama deva deva

Free Translation

O Lord of Lords (Deva, Deva), you are my mother (Mata); You are my father (pita); You are my sole relative (bandhu); You are my Guru; You are my knowledge (Vidya); You are my wealth (dravinam); You are everything to me (sarvam).


The Acharya appears to stress that having renounced everything, he still has got the Lord with him (who is his mother, father, bandhu etc). So really, he has not lost anything from renouncing.

g) Pitasi lokasya Charaa charasya ………….. ……………lokatraye pyapratima prabhava

This verse and the next are verses 43 and 44 of chapter-11 of Bhagavad- Gita. These are words of praise from Arjuna after witnessing the cosmic form of Lord Krishna. Acharya’s words and feelings run parallel to that of Arjuna. You are the father of the world of the moving and unmoving. You are the object of its worship and its venerable teacher. None is equal to you, how then could there be a greater one than you in the three worlds, O Lord of incomparable greatness.


h)Tasmaat pranamya ……………… … priyaayaarhassideva sodhum

Free Translation

Therefore bowing down and prostrating my body before you, Adorable Lord, I seek thy grace. Thou, O God, should bear with me as a father to his son, as a friend to his friend, as a lover to his beloved.


The supplicant begs to be pardoned for past offences. He recognizes the need for being forgiven in view of his past actions where he acted unmindful of the Lord. The Supreme is not to be regarded as a transcendent mystery, but also as close as a father is to the son, as a friend to the friend and as a lover to the beloved. These human relations find in God their fullest realization. God as a father is a familiar conception.

i) Manovaakkaayai……………………… ….sarvaanashesha tah kshamasya

Free Translation

O Lord please forgive me for all the sins that I have committed. The sins include those committed by thought, words or deeds (mano vaakkyaayai) over a long (limitless) time. Also forgive me for sins accrued as a result of my doing prohibited acts (prohibited by the Shastras; akratyakarana)), by not doing prescribed duties (kratyaakarana), offences committed towards You (Bhagavadapachaara) or your devotees (Bhaagavadapachara), Forgive me also for any inexcusable offences committed by me in the past (krtaan), those that are being committed by me now (kriya maanaan) and those that I might commit in the future (karishyamaanaan). Please forgive all my sins (naanaa vidha ananta apachaaraan) without any exception sarvaanasheshatah).



It was commented earlier that the devotional attitudes that are essential in taking Sharanagati (refuge) are – (a) Resolve to subordinate one’s will to that of Lord Narayana at all times (b) Avoidance of all that is contrary to His will (c) Firm faith that the Lord is the saviour of all (d) Acceptance that the Lord’s protective grace is always with one (e) A feeling of one’s pitiable state owing to a realization of the insufficiency of one’s self effort in the pursuit of Moksha.

It may be noted that Sri Ramanujacharya is carefully following each and every one of the steps indicated above. Now the Acharya is addressing item (b) above – avoidance of all that is contrary to His will. What are the actions that will go contrary to His will? Major apachaaras are listed below.

(1) akrtyakarana (2) krtyaakarana (3) bhagavad apachaara (4) bhaagavad apachaara (5) asahaya apachaara

(1) akrtyakarana: This apachaara results when acts prohibited by Shastras are done. Examples are – causing misery to animals, stealing, telling lies, eating food that should not be eaten, extolling unworthy people with speech only meant for the Lord.

(2) Krtyaakarana: This apachaara results when one does not carry out duties prescribed in the Shastras due to laziness, ignorance etc.

(3) Bhagavad apachaara: This apachaara results when one commits sin against the Lord. For example – stealing wealth meant for worshipping the Lord etc.

(4) Bhaagavad apachaara: This apachaara results when one insults devotees of the Lord, making fun of the handicapped etc.

(5) asahaya apachaara: All offences against the Lord’s devotees are asahya. Not being able to bear the well-being of the Lord or His devotee belongs to this class. Sins committed against one’s Acharya also come in this category. Lord Narayana considers any offences committed against His devotees are unpardonable.



Manovaakkayaih refers to acts done through mind, speech and body. In fact, these three are the vehicles of Karma. They are also the vehicles which help us to either realize God or lose Him altogether. Out of these three, mind is the cause of bondage. Karma-phala for some of the acts committed in a fraction of a second cannot be wiped out even after hundreds of re-births.

Anaadikaalapravrttam ……………………………… …………..vartisyamaanam cha sarvam ksmasva

Here the Acharya is seeking a pardon from the Lord for actions resulting from ignorance and perverse understandings.

Free translation:

O Lord, please forgive me for my ignorance and perverse understanding of the nature of the Jiva and the Universe as a whole. Please pardon me for all the perverse actions arising out of this misconception – actions related to everything in the past, present and the future to follow.


The Acharya sites two key areas where misconceptions readily occur – knowledge about the Self (atman) and knowledge regarding Prakruti. Perversity in knowledge is called “vipareeta Jnaana”. In the case of the atman examples of misconceptions are

(a) identifying atman with the body

(b) Understanding that the atman is self-willed (svatantra) and not

dependent on the Lord

(c) assuming that the atman is subservient to the others and not the Lord. In the case of Prakruti an example of misconception is – (a) conceiving beings


as man, animal, tree, reptile etc instead of recognizing that every created being as His form.

These misconceptions lead to perversity in actions. As done earlier the Acharya is seeking pardon for every one of the actions – those committed in the past, those that are being done now and those likely to be done in the future.

k)Madeeyaanaadikarma ………. …iti vaktaaram maam taaraya.

Free Translation:

As a result of deeds committed by me over many years / births (anaadi karma pravaaha pravrttaam) I have acquired this body and the ignorance. The ignorance casts a veil over my Lord (bhagavat svaroopa tirodaanakarim). This ignorance is caused by the relationship between the atman and the Prakruti. Apart from this, Prakruti has other ill effects in that it produces perverse conceptions as-well (vipareeta Jnaana). One such is identifying the body with the atman. The other examples are – only the body appears to exist; there is only self government by the atman and not by the Lord. As the root cause for all these Prakruti aids the Lord’s sport in a number of subtle ways. The three fold qualities of satva, rajas and tamas (gunamayim) form the basis of the Prakruti of the bodies acquired by the Jivas.

Having described the cruel effects of the body, which is really a manifestation of the Prakruti), the Acharya prays for the deliverance from the association. (maam taraya).


The Acharya has repented for his deeds and prays that he be pardoned. Here, he begs the Lord to help him shed his body and take him across. The effects of Prakruti (of which the body is a part) are also described here. The grace of the Lord is essential for our karma and ignorance to be dissolved. The body itself is part of Prakruti. Like Prakruti it cannot also be destroyed. However, the relationship between the Self and Prakruti could be snapped. Once the Self is lifted from the mire of Samsara (or separating the atman from the body) the true nature of the soul should shine forth. However,


this can only be achieved with the grace of Lord Narayana. Hence, the prayer from the Acharya to help him shed his body and take him across.

l) teshaam jnaani nityaukth ……. ………… cha mama priyah

This is verse 17 from chapter 7 of the Bhagavad-Gita. The following two are verses 18 and 19 of the same chapter of the Bhagavad-Gita. Sri Krishna classifies His devotees into four kinds (refer verse 16, chapter 7 of Bhagavad-Gita). (a) Man in distress (b) the seeker for wealth (c) the seeker for knowledge (c) Man of wisdom. Expanding-

a)The afflicted, those in distress, who have suffered losses, pray to the Lord for relief.

b) Theseekerforwealth,wanttoimprovetheirmaterialposition.Theyare


c) Theseekerforknowledge.Thisgroupisdevoutanduprightandwishto know the truth.

d) The man of wisdom. They are jnaanis, they who know. This Jnaana or wisdom is really devotion to one alone, ekabhakti.

Of the four classes of people, three are phala-kaama or desirous of rewards. The last category of people is the best. They are single minded worshippers. Others ask for favours, but the sage asks nothing and refuses nothing. He yields himself completely to the Divine, accepting whatever is given to him. His attitude is one of self-oblivious non-utilitarian worship of God for His own sake. Sri Ramanujacharya prays to Lord Narayana to transform him into this jnaani.

udaarah sarva evai te ……. …….. Eva ‘nuttamam gatim

All the above mentioned four classes of people are noble indeed. But the jnaani is regarded by Lord Krishna as His very soul. The jnaani is perfectly harmonized and resorts to the Lord alone as his highest goal. Prayer is an effort of man to reach God. It is assumed that there is an answering presence in the world. The idea being that if we pray it shall be granted. In reality, through the exercise of prayer we kindle a light in our consciousness which will gradually show our pride, selfishness, greed and fears. This paves the way for the building up of a harmonized personality. We start to pray to know more of the Divine. Prayer then becomes a way of life. The Jnaani knows God as He is and loves Him for what


He is. The first three categories of people attempt to use God according to their ideas. On the contrary, the jnaanis wish that they be used as per the will of God. “Thy will, not mine, be done”. For this reason Sri Krishna rates them as the best of them all. Sri Ramanujacharya begs the Lord to transform him into this type of Jnaani.

bahunaam janmanaam ……… ………..mahatma sudurlabhah

At the end of many lives, the man of wisdom resorts to me. The realization of truth is a work of many ages. One cannot expect to obtain the reward until one has sounded well the depths of experience and all its complexities. All this will take time. It takes nine months to make a baby, but it will take a much longer time to make a spiritual one. At the end, he realizes that Vaasudeva is all. It refers to the God’s imperishable majesty felt by the wise devotee who is humble and trustful. It is a consciousness of humility towards God who is everything and who truly is. Such a man is great. His equal cannot be found in this world or any other (Sudurlabha).

iti slokatryodita jnaanunan maamkurusva

Sri Ramanujacharya prays to the Lord to make him one possessed with such knowledge (devotion).

m)purushassa parah Paatha! bhaktyaa …… ……… parabhakti yuktam maam kurusva

The Acharya earlier prayed for knowledge in the form of devotion which is preliminary to intense devotion in its three stages. Here he prays for intense devotion which leads to the goal of kainkarya (service to the Lord). Parabhakti is continuous uninterrupted meditation with love and affection. This leads to Parajnaana a state where a mental vision of the Lord becomes possible. This leads to Parama Bhakti where the devotee becomes mad with the love of God and cannot sustain a single moment without Him. The prayer here is for leading the Acharya to the first stage – Parabhakti. This will eventually lead to the second and third stage.


14. parabhakti Parajnaana paramabhakteka svabhaavam maam kurusva

Please make me eternally of the very nature of these stages of bhakti The Acharya is not looking at Bhakti merely as a means to attain his goal of service!!. He is seeking Bhakti as an aid to his service of the Lord. According to the Acharya, service without intense love is lifeless.

15. parabhakti Parajnaana paramabhakyeka svabhaavam ….. ………………………………………..nitya kainkaro bhavaani

You may recall that the Acharya while addressing Sreedevi, in the 2nd curnika talked in detail about the nature of service resulting from deep devotion – parabhakti, Parajnaana and Parama bhakti … The Acharya after receiving the blessing of the Goddess, reiterates here his desire on similar lines.

“I beg that I be accepted as your eternal servant (engaged in un-interrupted service to you). Having enjoyed the experience of the Lord resulting from the three stage development it urges me to perform service in all forms and under all circumstances. This urge in me has arisen due to the unlimited love and devotion to You.

16. evambhutamatkainkarya praapyupaayataayaa ……………………………… …………………….ratiroopa nityakinkaro bhava

Thus far, we have noted that the Acharya has first approached Sreedevi and sought Her blessing to get his single desire fulfilled. His desire was to serve the Lord eternally in any role that is assigned to him. Having got the assurance and blessing of the Goddess he directly approaches the Lord Narayana to grant him his wish. Then he enumerates the various kalyaana gunas of the Lord. He quoted verses from the Gita. He renounced all his worldly possessions and relatives and sought the Lord as his all.

The Acharya then proceeds to nullify the negative aspects that might hinder his achieving his goal. He prays to the Lord to forgive all the sins committed by him in the past, those that he is committing now and those that he may


a) b)

c) d)

Having heard from the Acharya, Lord Sriranganatha said –

Even though you might not have followed the paths prescribed in the

scriptures for attaining the desired goal of service to me.

Even though your immense load of sins may obstruct your following the

spiritual paths;

even though you might have acted in a manner that displeased me;

though you might have incurred displeasure of my devotees through your


though you might have committed unpardonable sins

commit in the future. He then requests the Lord to take him across and help him shed his body.

All the above is regarded as a practical commentary on the Dvaya Mantra. The first part of this mantra speaks of the means, namely, surrender (Sharanagati) at the feet of the Lord. The second part speaks of the end, namely eternal service to the Divine couple.

Having heard the prayers from the Acharya, the great Lord Sriranganatha was extremely pleased with his devotee and repeats the words of Sri Ramanujacharya before assuring him saying “I am pleased to grant that all your wishes be fulfilled”. The Acharya was overwhelmed. The rest of the Sharanagati Gadyam are the words expressed by the Lord and the assurances given by Him.

Free Translation:


f) even though your essential nature (atma-svaroopa) may have been veiled


h) i)

j) k)

by perverse ahankaara

even though you may have been steeped in perverse impressions gathered

from previous births which cause and result in the twin features of – ahankaara and apachaara

even though you might have been bound to matter (Prakruti) which lead you to ahankaara nd apachaara

even though you may suffer from obstruction to the three stages of total devotion (Parabhakti, Parajnaana, Paramabhakti) constantly directed solely towards my lotus like feet

obstructions resulting from connection with the body (Prakruti) in the form of the three sorrows (aadhyaatmika, aadibhautika and aadhidaivika

pleasures and pain resulting from material experiences which deserve to be rejected and the limitation of knowledge


Despite all the shortcomings you enumerated, you have in some form uttered the Dvaya Mantra. Purely by my grace, having –

(a) got rid of all the obstructions to the three stage devotion (Parabhakti etc) directed for ever at my lotus-like feet

(b) developed the three stage devotion at my lotus like feet

(c) realised My essential nature, My Divine form, My auspicious qualities,

My worlds of sport and of bliss’

(d) comprehended the real nature of your (acharya’s) self as solely Mine

and completely subject to My will

(e) expressed the wish of enjoying Myself (the Lord)

(f) expressed the desire to be in service to Me only

(g) expressed the desire to have a total and un-interrupted experience

which is always pleasing, clear and an end in itself.

17. evam bhootosi

“ I confirm that you have become my servant.

You will ever be a servant of Mine, pleased in performing loving service in all forms, at all times and under all conditions, urged by the immense pleasure resulting from your experiences of Myself”.

When the Acharya heard all this from the Lord, it occurred to him that the mere utterance of the dvayam was responsible for his being blessed

18. Aadhyaatmika aadhibhautika adhidaivika………………………………. ………… …………….atraiva srirange sukhamaasva

Free Translation:

“Freed from all traces of obstacles and miseries that come up due to your association with the body, in the form of aadhyaatmika, aadhibhautika, adhidaivika categories, you shall live happily at Srirangam till your body falls constantly repeating the Dvaya mantra and meditating on its meaning in the manner you have done”.



The Lord confirms that the Acharya’s wish to perform eternal service to the Lord has been granted. He commands that the Acharya continue his service at Srirangam with his body just as he would do in the land of bliss – Paramapada.

Obstacles and miseries in this world come from three sources –

(a) aadhyaatmika: Refer to difficulties that arise due to us. Physical and mental stresses and ailments are examples for this kind.

(b) (c)

Aadhibhautika: Refers to the problems faced from other beings.

Adhidaivika: Refers to problems that arise from outside our control. Examples are – rain, fire thunder etc.

(It is noted that all Vedic chants end with Om Shantih, Shantih, Shantih. The reason for repeating Shanti three times to get “Shanti”fromthethreecategoriesofproblems mentioned above)

The Lord assures the Acharya, being an exceptional devotee and also being one who has been assured to receive the greatest gift (eternal service to the Lord) he will not be facing any of the three obstacles mentioned above (aadhyaatmika, aadhibhautika, adhidaivika dukhavignagandharahitasvam). The Lord indicates that the Acharya should constantly chant the Dvayam (Dvayavakta) and meditate on its meaning as well (artha anusandhaana saha). The Lord Indicates that the Acharya pass his time here itself (atraiva) in Srirangam (srirange) till his body is cast off (yaavaccarirapaatam).


19. sarirapatasamaye………… … nityakinkaro bhavisyasi

Free Translation:

“When you shed your body you will, by My grace, attain true and extensive knowledge. You will be thinking of Me only. Your current resolve that the “Lord is my Supreme goal” will not be diminished. You will be rid of the gross and subtle Prakruti (body, attachment, desire etc). Without any delay you will attain the privilege of eternal and uninterrupted service to Me”.


Here the Lord is giving an idea of what awaits him after he sheds his body.

“You will be unique when you shed your body (sarirapaata samayetukevalam madiyayaa evadayaya atiprabuddha). You will be blessed with a great expansion of knowledge. All this will happen due to My grace”. Before receiving His grace, Acharya was aware of himself and the Lord. After receiving His grace, he would have the Lord as the sole subject (since the awareness came as a result of His grace). He will only be aware of the Lord’s resplendent form with all the attributes and His immense wealth (Vibhuti). With immense faith that the Lord will take care of him, the Acharya will be able to cast off his body easily as one would do with an old garment (jirnamiva vastram sukhena imam prakrtim sthula sookshmarupam visrjya). The refinement of mind is not possible for ordinary people. These short comings are met by Uppaasakas who try to gain the end through their own efforts. If this effort is surrendered to the Lord (matprasaada labda), there will be no obstacles to these benefits. Salvation is assured.

Lord Sriranganatha details some of the benefits the Acharya will be receiving due to His grace. (a) A single minded devotion, perfected at the end of the three stage Bhakti Sadhana, directed at the glorious feet of the Lord (maccaranaaravinda ugala ekaantika aatyantika Parabhakti, Parajnaana, Paramabhaktih) (b) As a culmination of this intense devotion a complete


experience of me based on immense love (d) Pleased with your love towards Me and your eagerness to serve, I accept you to serve me eternally.

20. ma te bhudatra samshayah

Let there be no doubt regarding this in your mind.

21. anrtam noktapurvam …. …….iti mayaivahyuktam

Free Translation:

I have never told a lie. Nor will I do it in future. Rama never speaks a double world. “To him who surrenders to me once and says “I am yours”, I offer protection from all beings. This is my vow”. These are the words were pronounced by Lord Rama while offering protection to Vibhishana. Lord Krishna tells Arjuna on the eve of the Mahabharata war “Renounce all dharmas (prescribed means for salvation) and surrender yourself solely to me. I will rid you of all your sins. Grieve not”. The Lord says that both words were spoken by Me (itimayaivah uktam).


It may be in order here, to understand the difference between Bhakti and Prapatti.

Bhakti means practising love of God, taking various positive aids in such practice with the idea that if we take those ideas as the means, we can thereby attain Him.

Prapatti, on the other-hand, means acceptance of one’s utter helplessness to be redeemed by any means and resigning oneself to Him. You are then accepting Him both the means and end of your efforts. In the Vaishnava tradition these two are illustrated by what are called Markata-Kishora nyaya and Maarjaara-Kishora nyaya.

Markata-Kishora nyaya refers to the case of a baby monkey. It holds on tightly to its mother while being transported depending for its safety and chance of reaching the destination on the strength of its hold.


Maarjaara-Kishora nyaya refers to the case of kitten being transported. The young cat remains where it is placed and the mother cat carries it to the destination without any effort on the part of the young one. And there is no risk on the way. Prapatti means this kind of absolute resignation to the Lord, making Him both the means and the end.

22. atastvam tava ………………… …nissamshaya sukha masva

You may safely rest without any fear or doubt in the matter of your true knowledge about Me and your realization about me.

This ends Sharanagati Gadya. Emanations of Sriman Narayana

We shall now briefly discuss the aspects or emanations of the Supreme Being, Sriman Narayana.

Lord Vishnu’s Parama-pada is Vaikuntha. There the Lord is seated in all glory on a beautiful throne. The colour of the deity is that of blue lotus. He is clad in yellow garment.

The doctrine of Chaturvyuha is very ancient. It is referred to in both the Mahabharata and the Puranas.

The Supreme Being Vasudeva is the first. He is so called because all beings, Brahma and others live in Him during Pralaya or because He lives in all beings. In Him all the six divine qualities – Jnaana, Bala, Aishvarya, Virya, Shakti and Tejus are simultaneously manifest.

During the process of creation, the Supreme Person is called Pradyumna. The divine qualities of Virya and Aishvarya are prominent in Him. He is the inner controller of all including Brahma. His knowledge of all righteousness is superb. It is He who presents Vedas to Brahma.

During the process of preserving the creation, the Supreme Person is called Aniruddha. The divine qualities of Shakti and Tejus are prominent in Him. None can resist the divine activity of maintaining law and order. He is the inner controller of the


Manus and others who are associated with Him during preservation. During the process of destruction the Supreme Person is called Sankarshana. The divine qualities of Jnaana and Bala are prominent in Him. He is the inner controller of Rudra, Yama and others.

The doctrine of Vyuha got a further extension in the Agama literature. Each member of the Chatur-Vyuha emanated into three other forms – referred to as Vyuhantaras.

Emanations of Vasudeva are – Keshava, Narayana, Madhava.

Emanations of Pradyumna are – Trivikrama, Vaamana, Sridhara

Emanations of Aniruddha are – Hrishikesa, Padmanaabha, Daamodara

Emanations of Sankarshana are – Govinda, Vishnu, Madhusudhana

These twelve emanations are said to be the divinities superintending the Sun in twelve months. The names of the twelve Sun deities are – Dhaataa, Aryamaa, Mitra, Varuna, Indra, Vivasvaan, Pusa, Parjanya, Amsa, Bhaga, Tvastaa and Vishnu. The Sun is one, but is adored under these names in the twelve months from Chaitra to Phaalguna respectively.

The twelve Vyuhantara forms and the parts of the body they control are given below.


Kesava Narayana Madhava Govinda Vishnu Madhusudhana Trivikrama Vamana Sridhara Hrishikesha

Parts of body controlled


Lower abdomen (centre) Chest

Front neck (centre) Lower abdomen (right) Right arm

Neck (right side)

Lower abdomen (left) Left arm

Neck (left side)





Back (lower spinal )

Back (upper spinal)

Top of the Head

Since the human body is made out of Prakrti (matter) which also forms the body of the Lord, these Vyuhantara forms reside in the parts of the body noted against each form. Further, these forms are supposed to represent the twelve signs in the universe, corresponding to the twelve zodiacs. After wearing the Sri Vaishnava marks (Dvadasa urdhva-pundram) on the spots indicated, which externally display the Vyuhantara forms, the Lord is saluted by chanting the appropriate name with folded arms near the corresponding part of the body

Having studied briefly about the Vyuhas of Lord Narayana, we may briefly study about the others – Vibhavas, Antaryamin and Archa.


In a strict sense, an Avataara means a descent as its etymology shows. But the word is used to denote any of the three modes (manifestation, descent or birth) of the Lord contacting us in a tangible form. There is no binding on the Bhagavan of when He must assume an Avataara. The purpose of an Avataara is threefold – (a) Protection of those who are noble in character. (b) Destruction of the wicked (c) the re-establishment of virtue.

Divine manifestation is twofold. (a) Primary (b) Secondary.

(a) Primary: The Primary or Swaroopa Avataara is that where the Lord Himself is acting as in the case of Lord Krishna. Here the divine contact is direct. People, who were fortunate to live through the life and times of Sri Krishna, could hear His voice, talk to Him and even touch Him.

(b) The secondary: Also called aavesaavataara is where He acts through some individual soul as in the form of Parashurama. Here the divine contact is indirect. It is said that the Lord Narayana does not assume any bodies born of men and women. On the other hand, the Lord manifests His own eternal form which is made up of bliss and consciousness. This sort of manifestation of the Lord is said to be His birth, and nothing else.



Prakruti and Jivas exist as His eternal and inseparable modes. God only wills the Srishti or projection of Prakruti into categories and their combinations. The shapes that these take depend on the Karma efficiencies of the Jivas involved in the cyclic process of time. God only provides the manifesting power. He is not responsible for the evil and sufferings involved in the creative process. The diversification itself does not complete the creative process. The Supreme Brahman has to enter into each of these bodies. He is therefore the indweller of all including the Jivas. However, it should be remembered that the pains and enjoyments of the Jivas are solely due to their Karma. God is untouched by the bondage of Karma.

Narayana Sooktam gives a good description of Indweller. Antaryami Brahmana of the Brhadaranyaka Upanishad talks about the Sareera-Sariri (Body-soul) relationship. This runs partly as follows – “He who dwells in all beings but is within them, whom none of the beings know, whose body is all beings and who controls all beings from within. He is never seen but the Seer, He is never heard, but is the hearer…”

Archa Avatar (consecrated images)

When the image of God is installed and consecrated with sacred mantras, God in His boundless generosity and infinite love for His devotees enters into the image and makes it His real form. He does not just reside in the image, but becomes the image itself. The concept of Archa avatar has a significant place in the Vaishnava tradition. It is also at the heart of the temple tradition in India. This increases the accessibility or Saulabhya to an ordinary devotee. We have already discussed the categories into which the Archavatar has been divided into.

Given below is a table that summarises the major aspects of the Vyuhas


Sriman Naryana

PPara Vasudeva


Predominant Qualities

Presides Over




What they carry

in their Four hands




Aishvarya Virya Shakti Tejus



Kesava Narayana Madhava



Sapphire- Blue

Four Chakras Four Conches Four Maces


Jnana Bala

Jiva-Tattwa (Life principle)

Sublation (Pralaya)


Vishnu Madhusudhana


Saffron Lotus

Four bows

Four ploughs Four pestles


Aishvarya Virya

Mano- Tatwa (Mind principle)

Creation (Srishti)

Trivikrama Vamana Sridhara


Rising Sun White Lotus

Four swords

Four thunderbolts Four spears


Shakti Tejus


Preservation (Sthiti)

Hrishikesha Padmanabha Damodara

Lighting Sun Indragopa- insect

Four mallets Five weapons Four nooses


Shriranga Gadyam

This piece, in essence is an abridged version of the Sharanagati Gadyam. It is explicitly addressed to Lord Ranganaatha of Srirangam and for that reason is called Sri Ranga Gadyam. While the Sharanagati Gadyam is often referred to as the long Gadyam, Sri Ranga Gadyam is referred to as the short Gadyam.

The Acharya prays for the supreme goal of being accepted in the service of the Lord. He seeks the Lord’s feet as the ultimate means for achieving his desire.

To the devotee who has chosen the path of Prapatti for gaining salvation it is essential that –

i. he should spend his time in devoted service to the Lord

ii. worship and serve Him in His temples

iii. serve His devotees

iv. if the above were not possible – meditate on His name and qualities

v. if lacking in depth of devotion – at least utter the Dvayamantra and its import

The Acharya intends that this Sriranga Gadyam as fit for repetition in the presence of the Lord by devotees to fulfill their desires.


1 Svaadheena trividha chetana …………

…………………..nityakinkaro bhavaani

Free Translation

Acharya has just one desire and he prays for the fulfillment of it -the desire

to be in eternal and devoted service to the Lord. The Lord, Narayana is the acceptor of the service. One of the meanings or interpretations of the word Narayana is His Lordship over the two lands – (a) the land of His sport – meaning the world we live in (b) the land of bliss – Paramapada.

While making his request, the Acharya brings to focus two telling points. (1) He is the Lord of the Universe and of the Vaikunta. For this reason there is no need for Him to consult any one in doing what He wants. (2) He has innumerable auspicious qualities including those that favour His Aashritas (those who seek His protection). On the basis of these the Lord should easily be able to grant his wishes.



Svaadheena … Bhagavantam

Lord Narayana has complete control over the variations in the nature, existence and activity of both the conscious (Chetana- animate) and non- conscious (A-Chetana – inanimate) forces. And the entire creation consists of Chetana and A-Chetana varieties only.

Chetana- animate or living force is classified into three groups (tri- vidha- chetana). Similarly, A-Chetana – inanimate kind is also classified into three groups.

The classifications of Chetana are –

(a) Samsari:

(b) Muktas:

(c) Nitya

Under this category come Jivas who have not completed their Karma- phala and as a consequence are going through the cycle of birth and re-birth experiencing happiness and misery. Their ability to know and understand is limited

Under this category come Jivas who, were once in bondage and freed after many years by the grace of the Lord, and have been liberated from the bondage to the body. The absence of such bondage will enable their intellect to fully blossom. They exist in a state of eternal happiness in the service of the Lord

They are ever free and have never been in bondage. They are engaged in ageless and eternal service to the Lord.

The classifications of A-Chetana are –

(a) Shuddha satvaCharacterized by total by total purity. Paramapada, the material land of the Bliss is made up of this material. It is made up of five Divine components and referred to as Panchopanisanmaya (1) Paramesti (2) Pumaan (3) Visva (4) Nivrtti (5) Sarva. It is changeless in nature, that is, Time has no sway on it. It is helpful to the protective activities of Lord Narayana in His forms as Vyuha and Vibhava.

(b) PrakrutiIt is made up of a mixture of the three Gunas – Satva, Rajas and Tamas. This is the material making up this world of ours, men, women and even personages like Indra downwards. It is subject to changes and Time has a sway on it. The proportion of the three gunas varies depending on the good and bad actions of the Jivas. Their effect is to hide the true knowledge of the


embodied soul, the Supreme Being, the true goal in life and the means to the


(c) Kaala (Time)Is different to Prakruti. It controls the existence of A-Chetana

(inanimate stuff) and Samsari. Birth, growth, death is completely controlled by Time. However, it has no sway over Paramapada, Muktas and Nityas. Lord Narayana’s sway over Chetana and A-Chetana consists in being their inner-being, Antaraatma, and controlling them.

Klesha karmaadi ashesha dosha asamsprstam

Since the Lord is the inner soul, is it possible for the faults and defects of the body stain the soul? The answer is – the faults of the body do not touch the Lord.

The causes that lead to misery are, (klesha karmah adi) – ignorance, self- importance, greed, desire, anger and similar such faults. These causes affect both men and gods (Devas) alike, who have varying life spans, differences in nature and intelligence. These causes result in – ageing, sufferings from diseases etc. The Lord is ‘asamsprstam” – untouched by these faults.

Thus far, Sri Ramanuja has pointed out the complete control that Lord Narayana has over everything that has been created, both land and beings. The Acharya’s point is that the Lord should have no difficulty in accepting Sri Ramanuja as His servant.

The Acharya then proceeds to highlight that the Lord is just not Power. In addition He is endowed with a number of inherent qualities (Svaabhaavika) which favours His Aashritas the (devotees who take refuge in Him). The Acharya is pleading with the Lord to exercise His infinite and wonderful qualities (anavadhika atishaya) to grant his wish. The six principal qualities and sample of twelve Kalyana Gunas (auspicious qualities) out of the infinite number that He possesses is given below.

1. JnaanaAll comprehending knowledge.

2. BalaOmnipotence

3. AishvaryaLordship

4. ViryaImmutability

5. ShaktiCreative Power

6. TejasSplendour


Besides these principal qualities, Lord Narayana possesses innumerable Kalyana Gunas (auspicious qualities). A few of them are listed below. The first 12 relate to His concern for His devotees. The next 3 relate to the enemies of His devotees. The last 4 qualities enumerate His relationship with His devotees.

Lord’s Concern for the devotees.

1. Sausilya

2 Vaatsalya

3 Maardava

4. Aarjava

5 Sauhaarda

6 Saamya

7 Kaarunya

8 Maadhurya

Natural ability to freely mix even with the lowliest, completely unconscious of His infinite greatness

Affection, in the same way a cow shows its affection to its calf


devotees whether present before Him or not.

Affection/ Friendship; thoughtful of the welfare of His devotees whether present before Him or not.

Equality. He treats all His devotees equally without any bias

Compassion. Selfless sorrow at the distress of others.

All round sweetness – even while fighting with His enemies.

9 Gaambhirya Inimitable grandeur. He is un-mindful of the greatness of what He gives and the smallness what He receives.

10. Audaarya

11. Chaturya

12. Sthairya

Generosity. He is happy that He is able to fulfill wishes of His devotees.

Skilful. He is very clever in overlooking and hiding the shortcomings of His devotees

Stability of purpose or resolve. Even under great pressure from enemies, He would not flinch from His resolve to protect His devotees.

For the enemies of His devotees.

1.Dhairya : He is never afraid of anyone and is absolutely confidant of His abilities. His crowning of Vibheeshana, even before the war has started is an example.

2.Shaurya Supreme bravery.


3.Paraakrama Unbelievable valour

Relationship with devotees.

1 Satya Kaamah He makes the desires of all His true devotees to come true

2 Satya sankalpa His resolves for His devotees come true

3 Krititva When the desire of His devotee is granted, it is He

who feels elated and fulfilled.

4 Krtajnata Remembering a good act. A simple prayer from His

devotee seeking His help will be remembered and all

other faults forgotten

Only some of His auspicious qualities have been enumerated above. However, there are countless others which are not highlighted above (asankhyeya guna gana augha mahaarnavam).

Parabrahma bhootam Purushottama…. Nitya kinkaro bhavani

Acharya then addresses the Lord with words like – Parabrahman (Superior Being who is immense and immeasurable); Paramatma (Superior person distinct from all others); Sriranga saayinam (gives immense pleasure to all His devotees with His reclining form at the Srirangam temple); asmat swaminam (my Lord).

The Acharya then brings up the topic about self. His wish is to be eternally subject to the Lord’s command, ever at His service and deriving supreme joy from it (Nitya niyaamya Nitya daasaika rasaatma).

The next few words highlight stages of Parabhakti etc. The single minded desire to have to have the mental experience of the Lord (tadeka anubhava); Single minded devotion to the Lord only (Tadeka priyah); Experiencing the Lord clearly and wholly without any interruption (Paripoornam Bhagavantam nirantara manubhooyah). The word Paripoorna anubhava indicates experiencing the Lord’s essential nature – His form, His auspicious qualities and all His wealth.

The Acharya begs to be accepted as the Lord’s eternal servant (engaged in un-interrupted service to you). Having enjoyed the experience of the Lord resulting from the three stage development, he wishes to perform service in all forms and under all circumstances.



The second sentence (Curnika) conveys the surrender (Sharanagati) by the Acharya. He conveys his imperfections, lack of virtues and confesses he has no other refuge. He pleads to be accepted in the Lord’s service.

Swaatma Nitya niyaamya……………

…………..sharana maham prapadye.

Free Translation:

Basically, the Acharya is seeking refuge at the feet of the Lord Narayana. In the process, he pours out his personal shortcomings and his inability to overcome the bonds of Samsara. Yet, he expresses his intense desire to be of service in all forms and under all conditions to the Lord. The Acharya seeks refuge at the feet of the Lord and His grace to release him from the bondage of Samsara and fulfill his desire.


The Acharya, thus far, has conveyed in his prayers the desired objective – praapya. After dwelling on the auspicious qualities of Bhagavan Sriman Narayana, the Acharya conveys that his essential nature is suitability to be ever commanded by Him. Aware of this nature, the Acharya meditates constantly on His great lordship (anavadhikaatishaya svaamya) and His auspicious qualities (akhila guna gana). The devotion which leads to the realization of service is Parabhakti. The fruit for this devotion is permission from the Lord to accept the services of the Acharya in all forms and under all conditions. In addition, well defined knowledge (tadupaaya samyakjnana) regarding the Self and Parabrahman would lead to devoted service.

The Acharya then continues to enumerate his personal short comings and declares his inability to overcome them without the grace of Lord Narayana. He tells, he is lacking in personal qualities (tadanuguna saativikaastyaadii samasta atma guna vihinah) like – virtue (satva), mastery over inner and outer senses, and absence of ego, conceit, and faith in the grace of the Lord etc. Continuing beyond the lack of virtues, the Acharya confesses that he is a storehouse of sins (duruttaraananta tadviparyaya jnana kriyaanugunaadi paapavaasanaa mahaarnavaan tarnimagnah) collected due to the inevitable association with Prakruti. He cries out at his state of immersion in the ocean of sin and the prospects of committing more sins as time passes on.


Reference is made to the veiling nature of Prakruti, (otherwise called Maya), when it is associated with the Self (Atma). Due to this Maya, the body is identified with the soul. Maya is impossible to overcome without the direct help from Lord Narayana. The well informed can differentiate the two like the presence oil in gingili seed or fire in the firewood.

I do not find any means to cross this ocean of Samsara (cycle of birth and death) over infinite periods yet to come. O Lord, who is sought by all beings that are born (nikhila jantu jata sharanya), I seek refuge in you. He addresses the Lord as “Sriman Narayana”. Sri has a reference here to Goddess Sri Maha Lakshmi, who is sitting next to the Lord. The address includes Mother Maha Lakshmi to intercede on behalf of the Acharya and request the Lord to forgive all previous lists of offences (committed over many previous births) and satisfy the desires of His devotee.

The Acharya seeks refuge at the lotus feet of Lord Narayana – tava charana aravinda yugalam sharana maham prapadye.


After taking refuge at the feet of the Lord, the Acharya, begs for an immediate fulfillment of his desire with a firm faith that the Lord will respond to his prayers.

Eva mavasthitasyaapi …… …….nitya kinkarataam praarthaye

Though I am in this state (a storehouse of accumulated sins and short comings) having nowhere to go, I seek refuge at your lotus feet. O Lord you are well known to be moved to intense sorrow looking at the misfortunes of your subjects (As Sri Rama he has exhibited intense sorrow at the distress of His subjects. That is His nature). Witnessing my misery in Samsara, have pity on me and grant my wish. The Acharya addresses the Lord Paramakaarunika and Bhagavan. The first one highlights the extreme merciful nature of the Lord. As Lord Rama, He was prepared to forgive even Raavana, overlooking all his misdeeds, provided the demon king takes refuge at His feet. The second one, Bhagavan, highlights that the Lord has all the knowledge and power to bestow deliverance to any one He considers worthy. He does not need to consult anyone nor does He need permission from anyone to do whatever He wishes. Such being the case, the Acharya


implores the Lord to grant his wish. And what is the wish? To be accepted for eternal service (daasyam) to the Lord.


Tavaanubhooti sambhoota …………….. ……….na jaane’ gati manyadha

O Lord, please grant the pleasure of eternal service to you resulting from the joy of experiencing you. This is my only desire. O Master (naadha), out of mercy (kripaya) for my distress please grant me this desire. I do not know of any other means (na jaane’ gati manyadha)


Sarvaavasthocita ………..

…….kurusva maam

O Lord be pleased to grant me the love of service to you, an eternal service unto you under all circumstances and at all times. I look forward to you for all my needs.


Evambhoota tattva ……..

…….. me’ manastavamevaadyaiva kaaraya

Even if I do not possess the true knowledge of the goal or lack adequate sincerity for the knowledge, do grant me the correct perception of the means and the goal


Apaara karunaambhudhe’ …….. …….. mama naadha namostute

Acharya then expresses the qualities of Lord Ranganatha which would lead to the grant of his prayers.

Apaara Karunaambudhe’ – He is the ocean of mercy


Anaalochita visheshaashesha loka sharanye’ – you are fit to be sought (as refuge) by all irrespective of differences due to birth, level of knowledge etc

Pranataartihara – He removes the distress of all, including those who are refuge-less, who seek Him with firm faith

Aashrita vaatsalyaika mahodadhe – He is ever ready to forgive the faults of His devotees – like a cow that cleans up the body of a new-born calf. His greatness in this regard is limitless like that of an ocean (mahodadhe’) anavarata vidita nikhila bhootajaatayadhaatmya`- He controls the existence of all beings at all times. He also knows the truth about all beings. You know everything about every being, including me

Satyakaama – His desires are ever fulfilled Satyasankalpa – His will always comes true Aapatsakha – Friend in distress

kaakustha – Sri Rama who saved the crow from death Sriman – The Divine Mother is with you



Sri Ranganatha

Mama Naatha


I am Yours- not mine. Utilize me for your pleasure – in Thy service.

The Acharya’s appeal is passionate. He holds nothing back. There is no ambiguity in his request. What he wants is simple – yet rarely asked and much rarely given.

Sri Ranga Gadyam concludes with this.


Sri Vaikuntha Gadyam

In the Sharanagati Gadya the Acharya stressed that Prapatti is the easiest means (Upaaya) and is open to all to attain the Lord. Apart from the Bhakti, Jnaana and Karma yogas, Prapatti features as a completely independent means for attaining the Lord. These are all the means to attain the Lord. When you practice any one of these and succeed, what is there at the end of it? The Upaaya (means) has been discussed and it remains for us to know the Upeya (the end result).

In this Gadyam, It would appear, that there are six sections by which the topic has been handled

1. The Acharya describes the uniqueness of the sharanya – the object of refuge. The Acharya declares that to attain that object (the Lord Narayana Himself) Prapatti (taking refuge at the feet of the Lord) is the only means. The Acharya places his faith on God’s qualities like Saulabhya (easily approachable) and Sausheelya (mixing freely with inferiors)

2. In the second section the Acharya states that expressing his desire once will be adequate. However, he will repeat this often for two reasons. (a) to keep his mind focused on his objective (b) to spend time fruitfully meditating on Lord Narayana.

3. In the third section, the path taken by the prapanna (devotee who has surrendered to the Lord), after he is sheds his mortal remains, all the way up-to the Vaikuntha is described. The Acharya then goes on to describe the Lord’s exquisite form, the ornaments that he wears, the company of people surrounding Him and serving Him, the weapons that He sports and the Land of bliss itself is described.

4. In the fourth section, it is revealed that the Lord accepts the request made by the prapanna who then goes on to serve the Lord.

5. The fourth section tells about the state of the prapannas serving Him. They stare at His glorious form, making up for the many years that have taken them to reach this state.

6. The sixth section describes the way the Lord makes enquires regarding the welfare of His devotees.


Yaamuraarya sudhaambhodhi

…………. Sandarshayaa mahyam.

The Gadyam starts with the Acharya stating that he will bring out the spiritual wealth passed on by Sri Yamunacharya for the daily experience of the devotees. Sri Yamunacharya or Alavandar, as he was popularly referred to, was a very well-known Vishishtaadvaita philosopher. It was he who was responsible for getting Sri Ramanuja write the Sri Bhasya. He was, by himself, a brilliant debater and a writer. Following is a list his works-

1. Chathusloki a popular prayer in praise of Goddess Lakshmi

2. Stotra Ratnam a prayer in praise of Lord Narayana

3. Siddhitrayam consisting of (1) AtmaSiddhi. (2) Samvitsiddhi and

(3) Ishwara Siddhi which describe the Vishishtaadvaita school of thought, describing a relationship between the Self, Paramaatma and Prakruti

4. Agama Pramanya stating the authority of Pancharatra agama

5. Maha Purusha Nirnayam describing that the ultimate reality is

the god-goddess pair Goddess Maha Lakshmi and Lord


6. Gitartha Sangraha a commentary on the Bhagavad Gita

7. Nityam

8. Maayaa Vaadha Khandanam

The Bhakti yoga mentioned, in fact, refers to Prapatti.


Svaadheena trivdha chetanaachetana Swaroopa sthiti ………tatgata svabhavena sharana manuvrajeth

Free Translation

While wishing eternal service to Ishvara, Lord Narayana, the only means of attaining this goal is, Prapatti, to seek refuge at His lotus feet. He is the Master and controls everything in this Universe. He does not need to consult anyone or take permission from anyone while satisfying His devotees. Among the Lord’s innumerable auspicious qualities (Kalyana Gunas) the key ones are Saulabhya (easy to approach) and Sausheelya (mixing freely with inferiors). These are qualities of the Bhagavan that make Him take compassion on us


This is the essence of this section Commentary:

The Supreme Being, Lord Narayana, is in complete control (Svaadheena indicates this) of everything in this Universe – Chetana (sentient – meaning live, responsive and conscious), Achetana (non-sentient beings meaning – not live, not responsive not conscious), Divine beings, Time, their very nature,qualities,andtheirveryexistence itself (Sthiti). The Curnika starts with – “Svaadheena Trivida chetana Achetana Swaroopa sthiti” Svaadheena refers to the state of complete control. It refers to the complete control of the three types. This has already been explained in Sri Ranga Gadyam.

Lord Narayana is quite the opposite of any other Master – be it among the humans or Devas. He is untouched by any faulty, lowly qualities – “asesa dosha asamprstam”. The Lord is free from all faults. For example – He is free from klesa (person subject to desire and hate), karma (virtuous and sinful acts) adi (similar) defects. He is the abode of all that is noble and auspicious. In addition He is the abode of innumerable noble and auspicious qualities. These qualities have not been acquired as a result of any boon given to Him. They are a part of Him. His greatness cannot be comprehended by the mind much less expressed in words. The”svaabhaavika anavadhika atishaya Jnana Bala aishvarya Veerya Shakti tejah”. These have been explained in Sri Ranga Gadyam.

The Acharya addresses Lord Narayana as “Bhagavantam”. There is a special purpose in this. The Supreme Being has special qualities referred to as Bhagas. The special qualities are possessed by Him only and no other. They are – Jnana. Bala, Aishvarya, Veerya, Shakti and Tejas”. Though we refer to others as Bhagavan, it is only out of our reverence to them.

Before making his special and only request the Acharya recalls his special relationship with the Supreme Lord. “Svaamitvena, Gurutvena, Suhrtvena cha parigrhya”. He is the Lord, preceptor and friend. In fact, this special relationship is enjoyed by not just by the Acharya alone, but by everyone in this world. “Tat paada aravinda Dvaya paricharya, eka manorathah aikantika”. Having accepted Lord Narayana as the Lord, it is only natural that one should consider himself as the servant. The servant then wishes for service. He seeks personal service to the lotus feet of the Lord. That is the


only goal of the Acharya– eka manoratha. While this is the end in view, the means proposed to be adopted is Prapatti.

Other means such as Jnana and Bhakti are also recommended in the scriptures for gaining the grace of the Lord. However, the Acharya confesses that while they are suitable for devotees with greater will and capacity, they are not suitable for a man like him steeped in ignorance, Karma etc. “kalpa koti sahasrenapi” – just as a ball of cobweb will not germinate, even if soaked in water for thousand days, the Acharya says he will not qualify for the Lord’s grace if he follows the other means. Prapatti is the only means suitable for him to pursue.

He is confident that Bhagavan Narayana, with countless auspicious qualities, will overlook his shortcomings and grant him his wish. Why is the Acharya confident?The Lord is an ocean of compassion (akhila satva dyaika saagarasya). His compassion is for all living creatures without any distinction. In addition, He overlooks the faults of all His devotees. He does not wait to examine (anaalochita) whether the seeker is ignorant or learned, theist or atheist, ethical or un-ethical, humble or haughty. His grace is available for all (Akhanda Jana) without any differentiation whether he is human or Deva. He mixes with everyone without considering His own superiority and the lowliness of the other person. This characteristic is always with Him.

Having dealt with the auspicious qualities of the Lord, the Acharya proceeds to talk about His form and the body. The extraordinary beauty and the symmetry of the form of the Lord has never been experienced by any one – be they Gods, humans or animals (akhila jana hridaya anandasya). Everyone who met Lord Rama was wonderstruck at His extraordinary beauty.

How does the Lord feel about the devotees approaching Him? The Acharya explains it as – ashrita vaalsalyaika jaladhe’. For all those who sought Him (ashrita), He overlooks all their faults and admires only their good aspects. His love for His devotees is like that of a cow for a new born calf (vaatsalya). He does not think of a single moment’s separation from those truly devoted souls – –bhakta Jana samshlekaishya bhogyasya

He has the pleasure of the company of innumerable souls (devotees) in Paramapada serving Him. He has all the facilities for the enjoyment of these pleasures and these facilities are under His control – Nitya Jnaana kriya aishvaryadi bhoga saamagri samrddhasya. Where are all these facilities


located? It is at ‘mahavibhuteh”. It is in the infinite land of the bliss – referred to as Nitya Vibhuti or Paramapada. Lord Narayana resides here together with Mother Sri Maha Lakshmi. The Lord is the personification of bliss and ever fulfilled desires (avaapta samasta kama). If that is the case what role does Sri Maha Lakshmi fulfill? The answer is – the Lord’s pleasure is in uplifting souls. She is His companion and mediates between the sinful souls and the Lord. She pleads with the Lord on behalf of the sinners. As a reminder, the land we all live in is called “Lilavibhuti” – land of sport. It is the land of sport for Lord Narayana.

May the devotees seek the lotus feet of the Lord (sree mat charana aravinda ugalam) with the firm conviction that nothing else will deliver us (ananya atma sanjeevanena). May you be fully concentrated on this single goal and nothing else (tat gata sarva bhavena). Take refuge at the lotus like feet of Lord Narayana (sharana manu vrajet).


Tatascha pratyaha aatmojeevanaaya aiva anusmaret

The question is – Is seeking Saranaagati once adequate? Of course, the Lord has declared that He will provide protection to anyone who has sought Him saying “I am yours”. However, declaring once is one thing and seeking Him day in and day out with no other thought except Him on the mind is quite another matter. The later exhibits a complete surrender. For the uplift of the self (aatmojeevanaaya), everyday remembering is required (Pratyaham)


Chaturdasha bhuvanaatmakamandam ………. srimati vaikunthe’ divyaloke

The Acharya then describes the divine land of bliss, Srivaikunta, the beauty and splendour of which is beyond comprehension and words even for the great Brahma. Srivaikunta is far beyond the egg shaped unit containing the fourteen regions which includes the Bhooloka the region we live in – there are seven regions above Bhooloka and seven below it. The andam also includes the areas that separate the fourteen regions (avaranas). Each region is ten times larger than the one below it. The seven avaranas are constituted by the same principles that constitute Prakruti – water, fire, ether


etc. These regions, constituted by various principles, are yet related by cause and effect (kaarya kaarana jaatamateetya). Beyond all this mass of Prakruti, – which though eternal is continuously subject to change, creation and dissolution – is situated Srivaikunta. Contrary to Prakruti, Srivaikunta is changeless. It is referred to here as Parama vyoma (i.e.) Paramapada. It is very vast and several times the size of Prakruti Mandala. It is also very clear and nothing is hidden. In this Divine land (Divya loke’), constituted out of Shuddha Sattva, there is no veil of ignorance limiting the knowledge.


Sanakavidhi shivaadibhirapyacintya ………. …….. svabhaavmiti paricchettumayogye’

The splendour and wealth of Srivaikunta is beyond the comprehension of great sages like Sanakaand other Gods like Brahma and Shiva. This Divine Loka is populated by great souls like Nityas, countless in number (anantaih). Nityas, you may recall, are eternally free souls and do not go through the cycle of Samsara. Steeped in complete realization of Lord Narayana their only activity is service to the Lord. Their enjoyment is Bhagavad Anubhava. In addition there are divine persons (divyapurishaih) and great souls (mahaatmabhih) serving the Lord. The Lord, in turn, cannot bear separation from these great souls. Srivaikunta is eternally populated (apurite’) by such great souls.


Divya aavarana shata sahasra aavarane ….. …… divya alankaara alankrte

The Acharya then proceeds to describe the wealth of the land of the Bliss.

The term Divya has been used to indicate the uniqueness of the place. Weareused to admiring the beauty of the nature around us here in Bhoomandala (earth). Srivaikunta is an entirely different region. To start with, it has been made out of a different stuff altogether – Shuddha satva. It has been specially created by the creator of creators and the Supreme Lord resides there. The region has hundreds of thousands of fortifications (aavarana). The word fortification has been used to indicate the immense wealth of the place. In fact, there is no danger either to the Lord or the wealth


of the place from anyone. Rows of Kalpaka trees (divya kalpaka taru shobhite’) lend great beauty to the paths around the place.

The magnificent temple of the Lord stands at a central location. Innumerable number of gardens surrounds this temple. (divyodyaana shata sahasra kotibh aavrete). The gardens and the temple, covering a vast area (ati pramaane), serve as the playground for Sri Vaikunta Naadha and His consorts.

Having described the location of the temple in a general way, the Acharya proceeds to give more details of the temple. He starts with the hall of audience located in the temple (kasminschit). The special hall of audience (divya asthana mantape) is studded with different varieties of rare gems (vichitra ratnamaye). It has a countless number of pillars studded with precious stones (divya ratna sthambha shata sahasrakotibh rupashobhite). The floor itself is paved with a variety of rare divine gems. (divya nana ratna krta sthala vichitrite). The hall is decorated with many canopies, drapes and other furnishings (divya alankara alankrte)

The Acharya reverts back to the temple gardens. Varieties of trees beautify the garden. Sweet smelling Flowers with different colours (nana nana gandha varnaih) from varieties of trees, scattered everywhere [paritaih (flowers), patitah (fallen from the trees), patamaanaih (still falling), paadapasthaisca (still remaining on the tree)] in the garden, render an exquisite beauty to the place. Beautiful flower gardens (divya pushpavanaih upashobhite) with bunches of rare flowers (divya pushpaih shobhamanaih) with sweet smell surround the place.

Details of other salient aspects of the garden are given. Parijata, harichandana and kalpaka trees are lined up in the garden. It has a large number of resting and sporting places (mantaps) decorated with fine flowers and precious stone (antahsthah Pushpa ratnaadi nirmita divya leela mantapa shata sahasrakoti roopa shobhitaih). Though these gardens are continuously used, their breath taking beauty never stopped to inspire a sense of astonishment on the inmates. Innumerable hillocks of sport (kreedaa shailaih shata sahasraih alankrte) break the monotony. Some gardens are exclusively for the use of the Lord, some for the use by Sri Devi and some others are for general use. The sounds made by birds like parrots, cuckoos, peacocks and others fill the air

The Acharya then gives detailed descriptions of ponds, tanks and lakes intended for aquatic sports. Steps leading to the water are studded with


pearls, corals and other precious stones (mani mukta pravaalakrta sopaanaih). The singing by a large number of birds could be heard. The tanks are filled with pure water tasting like nectar. Royal swans (divya raja hamsaavali virajitaih), spotless white in colour, swim around in the water.


nirastaatishaya rasataya …………….

……….. mahati divya yoga paryanke’ ananta bhogini

The couch on which Lord Narayana and His consorts are seated is described. Seats affording great comfort (nirasta atishaya aanandaika rasatayaa) are located artistically and cleverly between flower bedecked spaces. Clusters of bees, drinking honey from the divine flowers provide an exhilarating feeling for the visitors there. The gentle breeze is saturated with fragrance gathered from trees like chandana (sandal), agaru (lacquer), karpoora (camphor). The Lord is seated on a spacious divine seat provided by the great serpent – Adisesha.


Srimadvaikuntha aishvaryaadi divyalokam …………………………. sriyaa sahaasinam

Lord Narayana’s consorts and attendants are described here. The presence of Mother, Sri Mahalakshmi ever united with the Lord, by Her very presence makes this divine and amazing Sri Vaikuntha glow with a rare brilliance. She matches the Lord with her qualities such as Sheela (miscibility), Roopa (bodily form), guna (merit), love, affection and so on. In addition the Lord is served by divine attendants such as Adisesha (sheshaashana – refers to them who live on the remnants of Lord’s meal), Vishvaksena and others.



Pratyagrormeelita sarasija sadrsha nayana yugalam ……………chaturbhi raajaanu vilambhi bhirbhujair virajitam

In the next few lines the Acharya describes Lord Narayana Himself.

The Lord is the essence of perfection in all aspects. He has wide eyes like the freshly blossomed lotus (pratyagra unmilita sarasijadrsa nayana ugalam): His complexion is like that of clear blue cloud (svaccha neela jeemuta sankaasham); He is resplendent with the yellow silk adoring His waist (atyujvala peeta vaasasam); He shines with His own radiance (svayaa prabhaaya); He is extremely faultless (ati nirmalayaa); He is very cool (ati sheetalaya); He is very youthful (ati komalaya); He exudes the brilliance of a gem (svaccha maanikyaabhaya); He illuminates the entire Universe (krtsnam jagat bhaasayantam); His beauty is un-imaginable, Divine, and is like a wonderful ocean of nectar filled with youthful beauty ( achintya Divya, Adbhuta, nitya yauvana Svabhava Laavanya amrta saagaram). Curls of forelocks play on His tender forehead moist with mild sweat.

His face and eyes open up with joy (prabuddha mugda ambuja chaaru lochanam), like a tender lotus, on seeing His devotees. His raised eye brows resemble a creeper while showing concern to His devotees (savibhrama bhrulata). He has beautiful lips (ujjvala adharam). He has a bewitching smile (shuchi smitam); has beautiful cheeks (komala ganda); has a raised nose (unnasam); has a slim and conch like neck whose beauty is enhanced by the locks of curly hair and the long ear rings.

Sri Maha Lakshmi embraces the Lord out of sheer joy when she notices that her children (devotees) were protected and taken care of by the Lord. The blue lilies worn by Mother on Her ears, Her ear rings and braids of hair all leave their marks on His hands during this act. His four arms, long as they are and reaching down to His knees, flourishing like branches of a Kalpaka tree provide protection to His devotees.



Ati komala divya rekhaalankrta taamra karatalam ……………. Divya aayudhais sevyamaanam

His beautiful rosy palms are decoratively marked by figures such as lotus, conch, and discus. He has slim, long rosy fingers ending with shining fine finger nails Valuable, dazzling rings adorn these fingers. As for His feet, they are like fresh blossomed lotuses. The jewels appear more beautiful and radiant adorning the Divine form of Lord Narayana. The beautiful Crown (ati manohara kireeta mukuta chooda vatamsa) adorning His head is indicative of His Lordship over the Universe – they also indicate His accessibility to all and love to all beings. Ear drops with fish motif (makara kundala) adorn His ears. Neckbands (griveyaka) and rows of chains (haara) of unbelievable beauty adorn His chest. Arm bands (keyura) and circular bands (kataka) adorn His arms and wrists.

Srivatsa, mole like mark, distinctive of Lord Narayana could be seen on His chest. Srikaustubha, the incomparable chest jewel, distinctive of the Lord and rows of stringed pearls (muktaadaama) could be seen. He wears a band above the navel (udara bandana) and a dhoti made out of golden yellow silk cloth, once again distinctive of the Lord Narayana. He wears anklets (nupura) and many more jewels not specifically describer here. It is to be noted that all the jewels are worn by the Para Brahman Himself. As such, they are different from any other similarly termed jewels. In fact, they are the personification of the Lord Himself. They are soft and flower like to the touch (atyanata sukha sparshaih). They exude sweet fragrance (divya gandhaih). They are decorated by divine ornaments (bhushanaih bhushitam). The Lord wears a garland of unfading flowers known as Vaijayanti.

The Lord is served by the celestial weapons like conch (shanka), discuss (Chakra), mace (Gada), sword (Nandaka), bow (Saargna) – the five weapons (Pancha aayudhas).



Sva sankalpa maatraavaklapta jaga janmasthiti dhvamsaadike …………………… Naaraayanam dhyaana yogena drstvaa

The Acharya then proceeds to describe the wealth of His attendants and His own qualities which please His devotees.

The first reference is to Sri Vishvaksena – who is the Lord’s Senaapati, and it is with him that the entire wealth of the Lord is entrusted. Sri Vishvaksena is capable of managing the creation, protection and destruction of all movable and immovable objects by his mere thoughts. The Lord delegates all His powers to this trusted deputy. Besides, the Lord is served by other close attendants like Garuda (Vainateya). Still there are innumerable attendants like Gajavaktra and his group called gananaayakaas. All these attendants, by their very nature, are free from the bondages of Samsaara for ever (svaabhaavato nirasta samasta saamsaarika). For this reason they are referred to as Nityas. They are born for service unto His lotus feet (bhagavat paricharyaa kaarana yogyaih). In turn, they are also ever sustained by the pleasure of service to the Lord (bhagavat parichayaika bhogaih).

Now the Acharya goes on to describe the graceful looks of the Lord. With His graceful looks (divya kataaksha) is pleasing to the entire world (vishvam aahlaadayantam). Words emanating from His partly opened mouth add beauty to His mouth. Admirable characteristics like clarity, sweetness of voice make it more pleasant. Pregnant with ideas (bhaava garbhena), His words fill the innermost recesses of the hearts of His devotees (akhila jana hridaya antaraani aapurayantam), and serve like nectar (amrita) to His devotees. The devotees realise Lord Narayana through the vigorous discipline of meditation (Bhagavantam Narayanam dhyaana yogena drstava).


Tato bhagavato Nitya svaamyam aatmano nitya daasyam

………………. Bhagavat paricharyaayam asam vardhayitva

Having described the Srivaikunta, the gardens, the temple, the attendants, Maha Lakshmi and the Lord Himself, the Acharya could not contain his expectation, eagerness and anxiety. Inevitably, the questions are now being posed – when am I going to see Him? When will I Realise Him? When will I be accepted into His service?


While itching to be admitted into the service of Bhagavan Narayana, who is the rightful goal, the Acharya enumerates and stresses his true relationship with the Lord. “You are my true Master (mama naadham); You have been our Master for generations (mama Kula daivatam); You have been my saviour in all emergencies obtained through proper succession (mama kula dhanam); You have been most enjoyable to me (mama bhogyam); You have taken care of me like a mother (mama maataram); You have raised me like a father (mama pitaram); You are all to me (mama sarvam). Similar statements are contained in the Upanishads – “maataa, pita, bhraataa, nivaasah, saranam, suhrt gatim Narayana” (Narayana is my mother, father, brother, place of residence, sole means for salvation, friend and my goal. The Acharya cries out- when shall I actually see Him with my eyes (saakshhat karavaani chakshusha)? When can I have His lotus feet on my head (kadaa ham Bhagavat paadaambujadvaya sirasaadhaara ishyaami)? When shall I approach the two lotus feet of the Lord, being rid of worldly pleasures and devoid of love and hate associated with worldly life? When shall I be graced by the cool gaze of Lord’s eyes and be commanded by Him in His friendly voice? The desire of the Acharya to be admitted into the service of the Lord is expressed as above.


tayaiva aashayaa tatprasaadopabrmhitayaa

……….. pranaamya aatmaanam bhagavate nivedayet

The approach to the Lord with an intense desire to be accepted into His service is now being detailed.

The Lord is seated on the Sesha couch with Sri Maha Lakshmi attended by Garuda (Vainateya – son of Vinata) and other Nityasuris. To this Lord Narayana, ever wedded to Sri Maha Lakshmi surrounded by all His retinue (samasta parivaaraaya srimate Narayanaya namah), I offer myself, even from far, by repeated prostrations and raising up (as a mark of great affection and regard) (utthaiya utthaiya punah punah pranaamya). The salutations are being offered with a feeling of awe and bowing before Him (atyanta saadhvasavinayavanato bhutva). While approaching the Lord devotees are looked upon with great friendliness and sympathy by the Lord’s attendants and others. Devotees approach the Lord after showing respect to them and receiving their permission to see Him. While approaching the Lord, the great Moola mantra is chanted. The devotee then falls at the feet of the Lord with


the request “O Bhagavan please make this lowly self solely yours and accept me in all services in boundless measure”. Bhagavato nivedayet – surrender this self solely to the Lord.


tato bhagavataa svayamevaatma sanjeevanena ………. krtaanjaliputah bhagavantamupaasita

The devotee, after conveying voluntarily to the Lord his desire to be accepted for eternal service, waits for His acceptance. The Lord, in turn, conveys His acceptance with a very loving and affectionate look (amaryaada seelavata ati premaanvitena avalokanena). The devotee is accepted to serve the Lord at all times, at all places and under all circumstances (sarva desa sarva kaala sarvaavasthochita atyanta sesa bhaavya). Having thus been accepted, the devotee stays before the Lord in great humility – with folded hands and bowed head (atyanta saadhva savinayaavanatah kinkurvaanah krtaanjaliputah).


tatascha anubhooyamaana bhaava viseshah ……………. avalokenaavalokayannasita

Having just been accepted into the Lord’s service, the devotee is completely overtaken by the joyous experience of watching the majestic form of Lord Narayana. Watching Him the devotee starts experiencing the greatness of the Lord, as the protector of the Universe; still more His nature, essential qualities such as His purity, overflowing and incomparable affection and many more. This astounding experience leaves the devotee totally absorbed and incapable of any action – seeing, doing or cognizing (anyat kinchit kartumdrstam smartum ashktah). They remain gazing at the Lord. Fearing that the great experience may be cut short, the devotee pleads that the service should last forever.


tato bhagavataa svayameva atma sanjivanena …………………..sarvaavayavah sukhamaasita

The devotee, at first, hesitates to go near to the Lord being aware of his lowliness against His immeasurable greatness. However, with a gracious


look and a smile the Lord encourages and invites the devotee to come nearer in a sweet voice. He removes all the uneasiness on the part of the devotee (samasta kleshaapaham). When they are placed on the head of the devotee (shirasi krtam dhyaatvaa), the Lord’s lotus feet (srimat paada aravinda ugalam), are extremely comforting (niratishaya sukhaavaham). The devotee feels that he is immersed in an ocean of bliss (amrita saagara antar nimagna) and the joyous experience spreads throughout his body (sarvaavayavah sukhamaasita).

This is an account of the experience awaiting a devotee, who surrenders himself completely to Lord Narayana.

As long as one is alive in this world one should keep thinking of Lord Narayana praying for the release from Samsara with the confidence that the Lord will surely grant it. It is a practice of our elders to meditate on the last portions of Sri Vaikunta Gadyam before retiring to bed.

This ends Sri Vaikunta Gadyam Sri Vaishnava Mantras

In general, the human body must undergo a number of Samskaras before one is ready for God realization. The Vaishnavaits regard that among all the Samskaras, the Pancha-Samskara is superior to all. According to them true life as a Vaishnavaite starts with Pancha-Samskara – the five Samskaras. During Smaashrayanam the Pancha- Samskara is performed. Smaashrayanam means to approach (Acharya) with all sincerity. The Acharya initiates the person as his Sishya. On the part of the Sishya, this means, that he or she will live as per the wishes of the Acharya.

Vaishnava Brahmins in the south of India have a title “Iyengar”. They are called so since they follow the five Samskaras – “Iyendu angam Udayavar”. The Pancha Samskaram gives

Pancha Samskaras

The Pancha-Samskara refers to the five angas of Prapatti. They are – Thaapa Samskaram:

Here, the Acharya embosses the impressions of Conch and Discuss on the left and right arms of the disciple. Sudarshana Azhvar’s protection is always given to the devotee. Panchajanya, the Conch shatters all evils.


Pundra Samskaram:

The Acharya makes the disciple aware of the places on the body where the Upavyuha forms of the Lord are to be saluted – they are twelve in all. During this initiation the disciple is made aware of the names of the Lord and His consort associated with each Upavyuha form of Lord Narayana and of the way he has to offer his salutations. Each Upavyuha form of Sriman Narayana isexternallyrepresented by the “Oordhva Pundram” (Tiruman Kaapu or tilak). The Tiruman represents the Lord and the “Sri Choornam” represents the consort. The twelve “Oordhva Pundrams” are known “Dwaadasha Oordhva Pundram”

Nama Samskaram:

The Acharya adds the name “Daasa” at end of the disciple’s name. It signifies that the disciple will be a servant of Lord Sriman Narayana and Sri Ramanuja forever.

Mantra Samskaras

Among the Pancha-Samskaras, Mantra Samskara is rated high. This samskarainvolves the learning from the Acharya of three esoteric Srivaishnava mantras along with their invocatory verses. The mantras are (a) Ashtaaksharam (also referred to as the Moola mantram or Thiru Mantram) (b) Dwaya mantram (also referred to as Mantra Ratna) (c) Charama Shloka.

Yajna (Yaaga) Samskaram

In this Samskara, the Acharya teaches the disciple Bhagavad Aaradhana. Aaradhana is the way of worshipping Lord Narayana. Basically two forms of Aaradhana are recognized – (a) Baahya (external) (b) Manasika (internal).

In this section we will be discussing Mantra Samskara. As indicated earlier, the initiation of the Mantras must be through a competent Acharya (Sadaacharya – who is eligible to perform Smaashrayanam to others) and


only to disciples considered deserving by him. This is to enable the devotee to get linked to the Parampara. The mantras are highly potent and contain deep philosophical meanings. It is only initiated to disciples who have undergone Smaashrayanam. The utterance of Pranava (AUM) in public is restricted. However, anyone without any restriction to cast or creed can chant aloud in public “Namo Narayana”.


The Ashtaaksharam (referred to as Moola mantra or Thiru mantram) is “Aum Namo Narayana”. It consists of eight syllables and three words.



This mantra has been initiated to Sri Pundareeka and the great Bhakta Prahlada by Sage Narada himself. Lord Narayana has initiated this to Tirumangai Azhwar.

The first word is Pranavam (Aum) and it has three letters.

The first letter “a” (akaaram) refers to Lord Vishnu. A is the beginning of all letters and Lord Vishnu is the origin of beings. The Lord, in turn, provides a complete protection to all souls – at all places, at all times and in all states. The second Letter: u” (ukaaram) refers to Goddess Lakshmi.

The third letter “m” (makaaram) is the 25th letter in the Sanskrit alphabet. Similarly, the soul or Jivatma is the 25th tattva (First tattva is matter; the second is mahat; then the 5 gross elements starting from Ether; then the 5 subtle elements starting with sound; then the 5 Jnanendriyas; then the 5 karmendriyas. The total number of tattvas so far is 23; The 24th is Manas; The 25th tattva is the Jeevatma). Summarizing the Jivatma is a servant of Lord Narayana and Mother Maha Lakshmi.

The second word of the Tiru-mantram has two letters – “na” and “ma”. This leads to two meanings.

The first one is- Namah refers to salutations to Lord Narayana.The second meaning arises when you split it as two words – Na Maha. It means “not mine” Now Namah can be interpreted to mean –I am not mine. I am only a servant to the Lord, I belong to the Lord.Nothing is mine. Everything belongs to the Lord. Independence is not mine. I am depending on the Lord. Mastership is not mine. I am not the master of anybody, including myself. Lord Narayana is the master of everyone.


(c )

The third word of the Tiru-mantram is “Narayana”.

The word “ra” refers to that which perishes and hence to “achetana”. Thus “nara” refers to that which does not perish and that is – Chetana or Jivatma. That which does not perish includes the Lord also Now the word “ayana” has three interpretations – (1) A resting place or abode (2) “Upaya” or means (3) Fruit or objective

Against this background, what is the meaning for the word Narayana? We come with two interpretations –

(1) When “ayana” is interpreted as the resting place, the Narayana has two meanings-

a) One who is the resting place for all Naras – Chetanas and Achetanas. He contains all Naras. Hence, He is bigger than all of them put to- gether. his quality of the Lord is referred to as “Bahir Vyaapti”

b) One who’s resting place is Naras – this refers to all Chetanas and Achetanas. He is contained in each one of them. Hence He is smaller than the smallest of them. This quality is referred to as “Antar Vyaapti”

So far we have talked about the various interpretations of the words in the Ashtakshara. Scholars have put them together, and ten different meanings are now available for the Ashtakshara. They are given below.

Ashtakshara is, just not a Mantra to be mechanically repeated. The surrender to the Lord has to be total and not conditional. Attitude of approach, mental and physical (Bhaava) has to be that of a servant.

(a) (b)

(c )


Salutations to Lord Narayana

I surrender myself to the Lord. My existence is merely for the pleasure of the

Lord. I surrender the protection of myself to the Lord.

I am the servant to Lord Narayana and Mother Sri Maha Lakshmi. I am not subservient to anyone else. I am totally dependent on them

I surrender myself to the Lord. He is my only protector


(e) I will do service to only Lord Narayana and Sri Maha Lakshmi. My service is purely for the pleasure of the Lord and Mother and not for myself.

(f) I will do service to the Lord and Mother at all times. I will also do service to


(g) I own nothing. I belong to the Lord. Anything and everything that I have belongs also to the Lord.

(h) I do not have any Upaya (means) other than Prapatti – a total surrender at His feet. I want Him to bless and release me from the cycle of birth and

death and do service to Him.

(i) I cannot protect myself. The Lord has to protect me. I pray to Him to overlook all my sins and bless me with eternal service to Him.

(j) I belong only to the Lord. I will do eternal service to Him.

Dwaya Mantram

The Dwaya Mantra is referred to as the Mantra Ratna. This helps the Sadhaka to perform Sharanagati to Lord Narayana. It is recommended that this Mantra be repeated as a Manasika Japa continuously without any regard to time or place.

Dwayam is considered even superior to Ashtaaksharam. This is because Dwayam directly states both the Upaaya (means to be adopted for salvation) and Upeya (indicates the fruit to be gained) whereas in the Ashtaaksharam it appears in a concised form. The Dwayam illustrates the means to be adopted and the prayer for the goal. Since this illustrates the two meanings, it consists of two lines. Since it has two lines, it is called Dwayam.

The mantra consists of two sections –

Poorva Khandam – “Sriman Narayana Charanau Sharanam Prapadye”

Uttara Khandam – “ Srimate Narayanaaya namah”

Different scholars have interpreted this Mantra in different ways. They are all based on the grouping of the words. Some have treated the Dwayam as one part (since only one Mantra is involved). Others have treated it as two parts or more. However, the essence remains the same. Here, we will give an


interpretation treating the Mantra as consisting of ten words. The words are given below.

1. Sri

2. Math

3. Naaraayana 4. Charanam 5. Sharanam 6. Prapadye

7. Srimathe

8. Naaraayana 9. Aya 10.Namaha

Let us examine each of these words and observe what they convey


Sri – The common understanding of Goddess Sri Mahalakshmi is that She is the Goddess of wealth. Wealth is something you can only enjoy while you live in this world. Does that mean that Her role is finished once a person dies?

She is Loka Maata and like Lord Narayana She has a direct interest in the welfare of all Jeevatmas. And as such She has a number of other functions as well. One such is the recommendatory function. She also leads the Jeevas to take refuge at the lotus feet of Lord Narayana. This recommendatory function that She performs is called as “Purusha karat vam”.

The word “Sri” has six different interpretations. All these confirm the recommendatory role that She fulfills. They are – (a) Sreeyathey (b) Srayathey (c) Shrunothi (d) Shraviayathi (e) Shrunathai (f) Shreenathai.

Taking the first word “Sreeyathey” it gives the meaning that all go to the Goddess with a request to make them acceptable to the Lord and shower His kindness.

The second form of “Sri” yields the meaning that Sri Mahalakshmi freely reaches Lord Narayana and requests the Lord to accept the Jeevas and bless them


b) Math – The word Math is attached to Sri. It signifies togetherness at all times.. Goddess Sri Mahalakshmi is inseparable from Lord Narayana. For this reason She is also referred to as “Anapaayinee”. This togetherness will ensure that whenever the Jeevas approach the Lord, Mother Mahalakshmi is always there to plead on behalf of the Jeevas. She pleads that their faults and sins be overlooked and accept the plea of the Jeevas for liberation.

c) Naaraayana – While on this, some of the Kalyana Gunas of Bhagavan Narayana may be recalled. They are (a) Vatsalyam (Love) (b) Swaamitvam (Lordship) (c) Sowsheelyam (mixing with every one irrespective status etc) (d) Soulabhayam (Easy to approach) (e) Jnaanam (knowledge) (f) Shakti (ability to accomplish anything). These essential attributes (Samuchitha guna jatham) of the Lord are relevant in this context. The sternness of the Lord melts at hearing the pleas from the Goddess. He forgives the Jeevas.

d) Charanam-CharanamreferstothefeetofLordNaaraayana.Thefeetof the Lord are resting on the lap of the Goddess. They are, in fact, the centre for all the qualities attributed to the Lord. The form and the body are all auspicious and are referred to as “Divya Mangala”.

e) Sharanam – Sharanam is the means to attain the Lord is to take refuge at His feet. This is the Upaaya.

f) Prapadye – The Jeeva takes refuge at the feet of the Lord.

g) Srimathe – We now come to the Uttara Khandam. Srimathe refers to the Lord who is always in union with Sri Mahalakshmi. The request is being made to render eternal service (Kainkaryam) to the Divya Dampathi – Lord Narayana and Sri Mahalakshmi.

h) Naaraayana – This indicates that He is the supreme Lord for all the Lokas. As such it is appropriate that all services are to be performed to Him only.


i) Aya – This indicates a prayer to perform service to the Lord. Rendering service includes – service at all places, at all times and at all stages. The request also implies the removal all obstacles to performing service. The Jeevatma has taken refuge at the feet of the Lord. As a fruit for this refuge a request is being made to give permission to serve the Lord eternally.

j)Namah – Here the request is being made to remove “Kainkarya Virodhi”. The only purpose for the Jeevatma’s request to render service to Lord Narayana and Sri Mahalakshmi is for the happiness of the Divya Dampathi – not for the happiness of the Jeevatma. If the Jeevatma starts to enjoy the service then it becomes a “prabala thara virodhi”. The request here is for the removal of this obstacle. This is the explanation for the word “Namaha” .

Charama Shloka

No one wants to suffer much less die. In fact, we do not want to even get old. Yet, in real life this cannot be prevented. Both scientists and seers from India have been looking for a solution. The Indian thought has been centered around the fact, that if one can get out of the cycle of birth, death and rebirth then we could achieve Moksha and thereby eternal happiness.

And how do you get out of this cycle? For the Kaliyuga (the present era) two prominent means are available. (a) Bhakti (b) Prapatti .

A number of people are under the impression that Bhakti means is suitable for a common man during the current times and what is being practiced today is the Bhakti marga. In fact, both the assumptions are wrong. This does not mean that Bhakti marga will not lead us to Moksha. It is a much more difficult route to follow and even minor slips will derail the efforts. More importantly, it is not open for all (sex and caste restrictions apply).

We will try to understand the requirements for each marga

There are some activities that everyone has to perform irrespective of which yoga he

chooses to pursue on his way to salvation. They are called Nitya and Naimittika karmas.


Nitya karma refers to activities that one has to perform compulsorily. By performing these one does not get any benefits or Punya. However, not performing these will incur sin or Paapa. Example is Sandhyaavandana. These are called Ajna kainkarya.

Naimittika karma refers to activities which one has to perform on particular occasions. Example is Tarpana during eclipse time. There are some activities which are desirable to perform. By performing these you get Punya. However, not performing these will not attract Paapa. They are called Anujna Kainkarya.

(a) Karma Yoga

Karma Yoga is consecration of all actions and their fruits to Lord. In other words, it is the performance of duties with no thought of reaping of any benefit. It is to be done as a service to the lord and purely for the purpose of pleasing Him and not yourself. It is the Yoga of action which purifies the heart and prepares the Antahkarana (the heart and the mind) for the attainment of Divine light or attainment of the knowledge of the self. When you act, what binds you to Samsara is not the action but the idea of doer- ship and enjoyer -ship. If you act with the thought that your are acting as an instrument in the hands of God and without expectation for the fruits of the action then it does not bind you. Surrender both the action and the fruits to God. When Karma Yoga is properly done Karma Yoga can lead to Jnana Yoga. Or Karma Yoga can also directly lead to Bhakti Yoga – bypassing Jnana Yoga.

(b) Jnana Yoga

The aim of Jnana Yoga is Atma-Saakshatkaara. Unceasing meditation on the true nature of the self (atman) is the means to be adopted to obtain a direct vision of the self (Atmaavalokana). This is possible only after one has attained control over the mind and senses. Once this has been achieved it will, in turn, help to achieve realization of God by Bhakti Yoga. The practice of Jnana Yoga requires strict observance of Yoga practice as described in the Bhagavad Gita. The eightfold moral and spiritual discipline as detained in Ashtanga Yoga will need to be practiced. This is not an end in itself. The practice of Bhakti Yoga or meditation on God will be the next step from the stage of Jnana Yoga. The bliss derived from Paramatma Saakshatkaara is far superior to Atmaavalokana.

(c) Bhakti Yoga

Bhakti and Prapatti are the two Saadhya Upaayaas (means) through which the Baddha Jeevatmas become eligible to be considered for the grant of Moksha. It must be stressed that these two methods by themselves do not


guarantee the attainment of Moksha. In the end it is the grace of Sriman Narayana that will decide as to who will be blessed with this ultimate goal of Moksha.

Bhakti Yoga cannot even be started before achieving Atma- Saakshatkaara by performing Karma Yoga or Jnana Yoga.

Bhakti Yoga is the most difficult to practice. Even if one succeeds in faultlessly practicing the marga, the award of Moksha is not guaranteed to occur at the end of the present birth of the Sadhak. It may take a few births before it can materialize.

Sometimes, Bhakti is interpreted as “devotion” to Sriman Narayana which need not be the matured state of Jnana as expressed in scriptures. There are seven pre-requisites for Bhakti Yoga. They are –

(1) Viveka: Discrimination in the food that you take

(2) Vimoka: Only desire is to meditate on Lord Narayana

(3) Abhyasa: Practice worshiping Lord Narayana with vigour as per

details given in scriptures

(4) Kriya: Proper adherence to Varna ashrama dharma ( note some

varnas are not eligible to do this)

(5) Kalyana: Practice virtues like truthfulness, integrity, compassion,

benevolence, ahimsa etc

(6) Anavasaada: Freedom from despair due to disappointments and


(7) Anuddarsa: Avoid excessive joy or absence of it

It must be pointed out, one still needs the grace of God to be granted Moksha.

(d) Prapatti

There is a common belief that, in this Kali Yuga, Bhakti marga is the most suitable means for a common man to attain Moksha and what is being practiced now is Bhakti marga. In fact, both the assumptions are incorrect.

In this age of Kali Yuga, Prapatti offers a sublime path for attaining the grace of Lord Narayana.

Prapatti is self surrender or Saranaagati. God is the devotee’s sole refuge and the only saviour. So the desire to surrender to Lord Narayana and to serve Him is in the nature of things.


Prapatti is also referred to by other names – (Atma) nikshepa, Nyasa vidya, Tyaaga, Saranaagati, and Bhara Nyasa. It can be performed by anybody irrespective of age, sex or caste. The details are given Ahirbudhnya samhita. There are references to it in the Puranas as well. The main qualifications for a Mumukshu (one desiring Moksha) wanting to adopt Prapatti are as follows –

(1) Akinchanyam: Destituteness which may result from (a) Lack of mental / physical strength or knowledge of scriptures to adopt Bhakti Yoga. Also cannot tolerate delays

(2) Ananyagatitvam: Seek Lord Narayana as the sole refuge and does not accept any other reward other than Moksham

(3) Anukoolyasya Sankalpam: Only do acts that will please Lord Narayana and Goddess Maha Lakshmi

(4) Pratikoolyasya Varjanam: Avoid doing acts that will displease the Divine couple

(5) Kaarpanya: Feeling utter helplessness and total dependence on His grace

(6) Maha Vishvasam: Intense faith in Divya dampatis

(7) Goptrtva Varanam: Begging Lord Narayana for offering protection

(8) Kartrutva Tyaga: Reject the idea that you are responsible for doing

the acts. It is due to the Lord’s grace that you are able to perform

the act of Prapatti

(9) Mamata Tyaga: Give up the thought of mine. Everything is being

done for the pleasure of the Lord.

(10) Phala Tyaga: Give up the thought that the fruit for performing

Prapatti goes to you. It belongs to only to Lord Narayana.

In the Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 18, Sloka 66 we come across the famous Charama Sloka. This is the noblest Sloka in the Bhagavad Gita. This has been extensively commented upon by Acharyas and Scholars. For a common man / woman, ignorant of shastras, unable to stand-up to the rigid demands of Karma yoga / Jnana Yoga / Bhakti Yoga and looking for a Tarunopaya, Lord Krishna throws the life line and a guarantee.


The Sloka is given below –

Sarvadharmaan parityajya maam ekam saranam vraja |

Aham thvaa sarva paapebhyo Moksha yishyaami maa sucha: ||

In short it means –

Only those, who have mastered Shastras and acquired exceptional command, can practice Karma yoga, Jnaana yoga and Bhakti yoga successfully. Others will conclude, after their difficulties in practicing, that these yogas are not meant for them. They will then drop out in their quest for Moksha altogether.

“As a result, the above three yogas are recommended only for the knowledgeable and competent ones in Shastras. All the others, who are overwhelmed by their personal deficiencies, are instructed to approach Me and surrender unto Me. I will stand in the place of all these difficult upaayams and grant them the fruits of Moksha”.

Refer to diagram given below.


Roots – Selected Sthutis


Perform Nitya, Naimittika, Kamya activities

Karma Yoga- Qualifications Should be absolutely free from Greed, Lust, Anger, Egoism, Humble, Fearless. He should bear – disrespect, Dishonor, disgrace, harsh words. Have no attachment to fruits of actions. Dedicate his actions to the Lotus feet of God

Bhakti Yoga

Perfect it through Ashtanga Yoga.

General pre requites for Bhakti Yoga -(1) Viveka (2) Vimoka (3) Abhyasa (3) Kriya

Surrender to the Lord for His grace

Atma avaloka na

Jnana Yoga Pre requisites (Sadhana Chatushtaya)

(1) Vivek (2) Vairagya

(3) Sadhana sampatti (six virtues) (4) Mumukchutva Seven Stages of Jnana (Jnana Bhumikas)

(1) Subheccha (2) Vicharana (3) Tanumanasi(4) Sattvapatti (5) Asamsakti (6) Padartha Bhavana (7) Turiya

Prapatti Marga

(Surrender to Lord)

The main qualifications for a Mumukshu are –(1)Akinchanyam (2) Ananyagatitvam.Prapatti has the following angas –(1) Anukoolyasya Sankalpam(2) Pratikoolyasya varjanam(3) Karpanyam (4) Maha Vishvasam (5) Goptrtva varanam




Chapter IX – Hindu Yoga

Indian thinkers did not separate the goal of life from the view of life. Man’s view of life matures by what he wants to achieve in his life. This resolve, in turn, leads him to attain some goals of life.

In Sanskrit, the word Artha has many meanings. In this context, it means “goal”. What is sought after by everyone is called Purushaartha. Purusha in this case does not refer to a male person only. It also refers to females as well. In fact, Purushaartha here refers to Manushya artha. We may have hundreds of goals to be achieved in our lives. All the goals may be classified into 4 categories. They are called “Chaturvidha Purusharthas”. The Purusharthas are – Artha, Kama, Dharma and Moksha. The fourth one, Moksha, is God realisation.

There are five spiritual paths for God-realisation. They are Karma Yoga, Bhakti Yoga, Raja Yoga, Jnana Yoga and Prapatti marga. It must be stressed here, that Yoga is not to be understood in the naturalist view, but in the Aadhyaatmika way. Yoga really means Union with God. It must be cautioned that the goal of Moksha is not an easy fruit to get at – irrespective of the path chosen. In addition, notwithstanding the path you choose and the perfection you may achieve at it, ultimately God’s grace is essential. At the end, it is the grace of the God that will result in Moksha

Karma Yoga

Karma Yoga is the path of action. Work brings as its effect or fruit in terms of either pleasure or pain. In addition, each work adds a link to our bondage of Samsara leading to repeated births. This is the inexorable law of Karma. Karma Yoga teaches a way by which this link to our bondage could be avoided. Karma when it is done with the right mental attitude, right spirit, right-will through Yoga, without attachment, and expectation of fruits, without the idea of agency or doership, and with a mind balanced in success and failure – then the link to bondage does not occur. The Karma Yogi should dedicate his actions at the altar of God with the feeling of Ishvara-arpana. Non attachment brings freedom from sorrow and fear. As he dedicates his actions at the Lotus feet of the Lord, he develops devotion to God and approaches Him nearer and nearer. A rigid moral discipline and control of senses are indispensable for the practice of Karma Yoga. Practice of Brahmacharya


is essential. Cultivation of a number of virtues are also essential such as – tolerance, adaptability, sympathy, mercy, equal vision, balance of mind, patience, perseverance, humility, generosity, nobility, self-restraint, control of anger, non- violence, truthfulness, eating habits, simple living and endurance are essential.

The practice of Karma Yoga does not demand that you should possess enormous wealth. You can serve with your body and mind. God is more pleased with one who helps the helpless people than with a rich man conducting puja with pomp and vanity.

Jnana Yoga

Jnana yoga is the path of knowledge. The student of Jnana yoga has to equip himself with four means. They are (a) Discrimination (Viveka) (b) Dispassion (Vairagya) (c) the six-fold virtues otherwise called Shat-Sampat-viz., tranquillity (Sama), restraint (Dama), renunciation (Uparati), endurance (Titiksha), faith (Shraddha) and concentration (Samadhana). In addition the Sadhak must have a strong earning for liberation (Mumukshutva). The he hears the scriptures sitting at the feet of a competent Guru who is both (a) learned in scriptures (Srotriya) (b) well established in Brahman (Brahma-Nishta). After this the Sadhak practices reflection which will result in dispelling all doubts. Finally, he practices deep meditation on Brahman which will lead to Brahma Saakshatkaara.

There are seven stages of Jnana or knowledge: viz., (1) aspiration for the right (Subhechha) (2) Philosophical enquiry (Vicharana) (3) Subtlety of mind (Tanumanasi) (4) Attainment of light (Sattvapatti) (5) Inner detachment (Asamsakti) (6) Spiritual vision (Padarthabhavana) and (7) Supreme freedom (Turiya).

It may be appropriate to state here that there is a vast difference in the meaning of Jnana between the Advaita and Vishishtadvaita systems. In the Advaita, it is the intuitive understanding that the Jiva is one with the Ishvara. In the Vishishtadvaita at the first level it is to be understood that one is Atman and not a mere body- mind. An aspirant who has achieved this moves on by gradual effort to get a continuous and unobstructed flow of consciousness towards the Supreme Lord.

Raja Yoga

Raja yoga is the path that leads to union with the Lord through self-restraint and control of mind. It teaches on (a) how to control the senses and the thought waves


(mental Vrittis) that arise from the mind (c) how to commune with God. While physical discipline is taught in Hatha Yoga, Raja yoga teaches mental discipline.

Eight limbs of Raja Yoga: Yama, Niyama, Asana, Pranayama, Pratyahara, Dharana, Dhyana and Samadhi are the eight limbs of Raja yoga. This is also referred to as Ashtanga Yoga. Yama and Niyama constitute the ethical discipline which purifies the heart.

Yama – consists of (1) Ahimsa (non-injury) (2) Satya (truthfulness) (3) Brahmacharya (continence) (4) Asteya (non-stealing) and (5) Aparigraha (non- receiving of gifts conducive to luxury).

Niyama – is observance. It consists of (1) Saucha (internal and external purity) (2) Santosha (contentment) (3) Tapas (austerity) (4) Svadhyaya (study of scriptures and Japa of mantras) (5) Ishvara- Pranidhana (self surrender to God). He who is well established in Yama and Niyama will make a quick progress in Yoga.

Asana, Pranayama and Pratyahara are preliminary accessories to Yoga: Asana is steady pose.

Pranayama is regulation of breath.

Pratyahara is withdrawal of senses from their objects.

Dharana is concentration of mind on any object – chakra or Ishta-devata for example.

Dhyana is meditation on one object.

Samadhi – Dhynana leads to Samadhi, where the meditator and the meditated become one. All Vrittis or waves of the mind subside. Concentration is the key to success. It may take some time to master but it is essential to attain Samadhi.

Bhakti Yoga

Due to lack of an appropriate word, the term Bhakti is sometimes used to imply “devotion” to the Supreme Being which need not be the matured state of Jnana called for. It is generally assumed that processes like Bhagavat Kalyana Guna sravanam, Nama sankeertanam, visiting holy places, bathing in holy rivers, conducting rituals etc automatically assure the devotee of salvation or Moksha. This


is not true at all. It is not everything that becomes Bhakti. Surely these acts culminate in either Bhakti or Prapatti (to be dealt with a little later). Yet there is still a fair way to go to achieve the goal. Let us understand Bhakti.

There are seven general pre-requisites for Bhakti Yoga. They are – (1) Viveka (discrimination. Purification of body through proper intake of satvik food) (2) Vimoka (Freedom. Renounce all desires other than meditating on God) (3) Abhyasa (practice. Worship the Lord with full enthusiasm. Would involve strict adherence to scriptures etc) (4) Kriya (work. Proper adherence to varnashrama dharma mainly dealing with pancha maha yajnas.) (5) Kalyana (auspiciousness. Practice virtues like truthfulness, integrity, compassion, benevolence, ahimsa etc) (6) Anavasada (being without any despair due to disappointment and completely forgetting all past sorrows) (7) Anurddharsa (absence of exaltation. No excess joy or absence of it).

In essence, Bhakti may be equated to Dhyana and Upasana. Dhyana means concentration of mind on Him and Upasana is continuous thought of Him. Sri Ramanujacharya divides Bhakti into three stages of development – (a) Sadhana Bhakti (practice of devotional means) (b) Para Bhakti (higher devotion (c) Parama Bhakti (Supreme devotion).

Sadhana Bhakti is a strong faith in God. The aspirant then turns to the scriptures and teachers (who impart correct knowledge of Self, Nature and God). Duties of life have to be done without attachment. Karma Yoga and Jnana Yoga have to be practiced together. Aspirant must overcome the identification of Self as Body. All this is possible for a highly qualified aspirant but almost impossible for an average one.

Vishishtadvaita scholars argue that severe practice of Karma and Jnana Yoga can only bring forth a stage for performing Bhakti yoga. The person performing Jnana yoga (constant meditation on self or Jivatma) is known as Kevala. It results in Atma Saakshatkaara (self realisation). On the contrary, the person performing Bhakti yoga is called Jnani. This results in God realisation. The perfection of Bhakti yoga is through Ashtanga Yoga described above.

Prapatti Marga (Bhara Samarpana Yoga or Nyasa Yoga)

Vishishtadvaita scholars point out that Bhakti Marga does lead the devotee to attain Moksha. However, it may take several births to achieve it. It can only be practiced by scholars who have studied Shastras. One may ask the question “Can you love


God really? Does every part of your being respond to the love of God?” This is a very important question. Nobody can love truly unless God grants one such love through His grace. To love truly means that one cannot live without love of God. Some great men, like the Alwars or the Saiva saints withstood this test. An ordinary man may find that he is not capable of reaching any level , either because of his birth or because of his status or because of his condition or because of the debacle that comes to man at any time. As such a large section of people find they ineligible to practice it. He may ask “To whom shall I go? Who will save me?”

This leads us to an important Yoga to which Sri Vaishnavism has referred to as Bhara Samarpana Yoga or Nyasa Yoga. This is a unique feature of Gita. Says our Lord “sarvadharman parityajya mam ekam saranam vraja; aham tvam sarvapapebhyo moksayisyami, ma sucah” – “If you cannot do all the three yogas and even if you are lingering over, surrender all of them and take me alone as your sole Refuge. Surrender unto me and I shall take you through the whole yoga.” Yogaksemam vahamyaham. Here ksema is freedom; and Yoga is again to eternally abide with one’s God,in all parts. This Mantra has been expounded with extraordinary lucidity by the Sri Vaishnava Acharyas. The Alwars have stated this position of Omnipotence of God’s grace firmly. In essence surrender is the fundamental thing that will lead us further to the ultimate state of living in God. Do not have any doubts about God’s grace. Your capacity for reasoning into God’s nature or your capacity to perform Yajnas is very limited. And we do not, nowadays, have even teachers to tell us how to perform them. For example, we all are aware that we are not able to do Karma Yoga, nor able to follow Jnana Yoga. Most of us do not know how to do Ashtanga Yoga. Gita says, “I am the path. I am the Upaya; I am your Purushartha; in me you shall find your freedom.”

If a man is solely devoted to God and surrenders to Him, he has done all that has to be done. If he does it, and does it consistently through abyasa, that is, pursues it, holding on to the feet of the Lord without those vices of mankind, namely asuya, envy and greed, he will achieve the goal, namely God Realisation which is Moksha. That is how the whole thing has been so brilliantly summarized in the last chapter of the message of Gita.

Here Sri Aurobindo brilliantly explains the beginning of spiritual life or describes God’s Yoga as leading to Divine Evolution. He says “You must find the Lord acting through you in every one of your limbs and in every one of your parts and see the transformation of mind and body.” The surrender of each part is necessary. You may say it is a very difficult process. You may say, “How can I surrender?” the answer is “Do not worry. Be surrendering to God. Only keep yourself fit for God. Do not obstruct God’s activity”. God’s love for man is something very different from


man’s love for God. When you surrender your entire offering of love to God, then God reveals His love to you by giving Himself to you. His takes up residence in you consciously, moulds it and changes you completely. This is what we mean by the descent of God which leads to the ascent of the man.

The main qualifications for a mumukshu to adopt Prapatti are:

(1) Akinchanyam: Destituteness which may result either due to one’s lack of mental and physical strength to adopt Bhakti Yoga, lack of requisite knowledge from Shastras, prohibition by Shastras regarding the adoption of Bhakti Yoga

(2) Ananyagatitvam: Seeking the Supreme Lord Sriman Narayana as the sole refuge with complete aversion to all fruits other than Moksha

Prapatti has the following five angas (accessories).

(1) Anukoolyasya Sankalpam: Determination to perform whatever is

pleasing to Sriman Narayana

(2) Pratikoolyasya Varjanam: Avoidance of acts that are displeasing

to Sriman Narayana.

(3) Karpanyam: Feeling of utter helplessness. Utter dependence on the

mercy of the Divya Dampati is needed.

(4) Maha Vishvasam: Intense faith that Sriman Narayana will certainly grant Moksha Extensive knowledge in various fields of Shastras wouldn’t necessarily yield this supreme unshakable faith.

(5) Goptrtva Varanam: Begging Sriman Narayana for offering protection. This is the prayer to the Lord for granting Moksha

Performance of Prapatti is done with satvika tyaga. The three components of the satvika tyaga are:

1. Kartrutva tyaga: One should shed the doership attitude and realize that Sriman Narayana is the actual doer, since it is the ocean of His daya that is responsible for one to perform the act of Prapatti.

2. Mamata tyaga: One should give up the thought of “mine” while performing Prapatti. It is also done for the pleasure of Sriman Narayana.


3. Phala tyaga: One should give up the thought that the fruit of performing Prapatti belongs to him/her and realize that the fruit of Prapatti also belongs to Sriman Narayana.

In the Vaishnava tradition demands made on the devotees, practicing Bhakti and Prapatti are illustrated by what are called Markata Kishora Nyaya and Maarjala Kishora Nyaya. In the Markata Kishora Nyaya a baby monkey holds on tightly to its mother while being transported from place to place. Its safety depends on how tightly it is holding on to the mother. In the case of Maarjala Kishora Nyaya the mother cat carries the baby without any effort from the baby. The case of Prapatti marga is similar to the Maarjala Kishora Nyaya. The devotee’s absolute resignation to the Lord makes the Lord both the means and end.


Chapter – X – Of Bodies, Sheaths, Avasthsas and Gunas


The purpose of life is to realize one’s essential nature. But it is not easy to achieve. We tend to identify the Atman with the body. This is called Deha-Adhyasa. This is the greatest obstacle to Self-Knowledge or Atma-Jnana. To get over the delusion, ancient seers have made a systematic and detailed analysis and proved that Jiva is not the body. The study of the three bodies, the five sheaths, and the three states of waking, dream and deep sleep helps a man to understand that he is different from these modifications. He has to transcend all these in his journey to Self-knowledge.


The Jiva is enveloped by several layers (or bodies) of matter. These are there toassist in our objective awareness. The physical or gross body consists of three bodies.

(a) The physical or gross body (Sthula shareera) (b) the subtle body (Sookshma shareera)

(c) causal (Karana shareera) are the three bodies.

Brief details about them are given below. From the time of birth, the body undergoes changes and they are called Shad-bhava-vikaras. The human being gradually gets drawn into Samsara and the links are explained below.

From Ajnana (ignorance), Aviveka (non-discrimination between real and the unreal) is born.


From Aviveka is born Ahamkara (ego).

Ahamkara, in turn, leads to Raga-dvesha (likes and dislikes).

Karma (action) arises from Raga-dvesha.

From Karma the body or Deha is produced.

This chain of Samsara, involving birth and death, will continue till a deliberate effort is made. This can be done by destroying Ajnana (ignorance), the root cause for the Samsara, through the attainment of knowledge of Brahman.


The human being is composite of physical and psychological aspects that function together as a holistic system. The Kosha system refers to these different aspects as layers of subjective experience. The layers range from the dense physical body to the more subtle levels of emotions, mind etc.

Kosha means sheath. There are five illusory Koshas. These Koshas envelop the Atman (Self). Due to ignorance man naturally identifies himself with these illusory

sheaths. The diagram given above illustrates the point. The five sheaths


(1) Annamaya; (2) Pranamaya; (3) Manomaya; (4) Vijnanamaya and (5) Anandamaya Kosha.

Man identifies himself with the Pranamaya Kosha and thinks ‘I am hungry, I am thirsty, and I did this action.’ In fact, the Pranamaya Kosha is quite foreign to the real Self. Man identifies himself with the Manomaya Kosha and regards himself as the thinker and thinks ‘I am angry, I am lustful, I am greedy.’ In fact, the Manomaya Kosha is entirely distinct from the real Self of man. Man identifies himself with the Vijnanamaya Kosha and regards himself as the cognisor and thinks ‘I am intelligent, I know everything, I am the enjoyer.’

Man identifies himself with the Anandamaya Kosha and feels ‘I am happy.’

Both the Vijnanamaya and the Anandamaya Koshas are quite foreign to the real Self of man.

Through meditation the intellect of the man becomes pure. He develops the faculty of true discrimination between the real and the unreal, between the permanent and impermanent. Step by step he abandons one Kosha after another and eventually attains the knowledge of unity with Brahman.

The Annamaya Kosha constitutes the gross physical body. The Pranamaya, the Manomaya and the Vijnanamaya Koshas constitute the Linga Shareera r subtle body (astral body). The Anandamaya Kosha constitutes the causal body (Karana Shareera). The physical body is formed of the essence of food. The subtle body is formed of un-compounded elements. The casual body is formed of Samskaras or Moola Ajnana (primitive ignorance). The Birth and death are the Dharmas (attributes) of the Annamaya Kosha. Anandamaya Kosha is the cause for the remaining four sheaths.

Hunger and thirst are the Dharmas of the Pranamaya Kosha. Moha (delusion) and Shoka (grief) are the attributes of the Manomaya Kosha.

The Atman is ever pure and unattached. He is absolutely free from the Shad


Urmis or six waves of the ocean of Samsara, viz., birth, death, hunger, thirst, delusion and grief.

The physical body operates during the waking state. The subtle body functions during the dreaming state; and the causal body operates during deep-sleep state. During deep-sleep it is the thin veil of Anandamaya Kosha that separates the individual soul from the supreme Soul or Brahman.

The following table gives brief details of the bodies and the Koshas. Jagadguru Shankaracharya has written commentaries on all the principal Upanishads. He explains that Maya is the material cause of the Universe. Maya is made up of the Gunas – Sattva (purity), Rajas (passion) and Tamas (darkness). Tamas is the cause of Annamaya Kosha. So inertness predominates in this Kosha. It is not endowed with Kriya Shakti (power of action) or Jnana Shakti (power of cognition).

Rajas is the cause of the Pranamaya Kosha. It is endowed with Kriya Shakti (power of action). The cause of the Manomaya Kosha is Sattva mixed with Tamas. Therefore the Tamasic qualities, hatred etc., are present in the mind.

The cause of the Vijnanamaya Kosha is Sattva mixed with Rajas. Man as

mind and intellect (Buddhi) is a product of Jnana-Shakti. Shakti man gets the knowledge as how to possess his desired Kriya Shakti he exerts and possesses the objects.

Gunas, Avasthas and Vrittis Gunas

The mind has three Gunas. They are

(a) Sattva (light, bliss, goodness);

(b) Rajas (passion and motion)

(c) Tamas (inertia, darkness).

Through objects.




There are three Vrittis in the mind corresponding to the three Gunas.

(1) Santa Vritti (peace) comes out of Sattva Guna. Equilibrium comes out of this Guna.

(2) Ghora Vritti comes out of Rajo Guna. Anger comes out of this Guna.

(3) Mudha Vritti comes out of Tamo Guna. This Guna yields carelessness, laziness and drowsiness.

Sattva Guna:

Fearlessness and purity of heart will be displayed. It is favourable for the attainment of Moksha. The mind will always be steady. The person may stick to one place for a long time. The person will keep friendship with persons for a long time. There will be purity of thought (Bhava Samsuddhi) and purity of heart (Sattva Samsuddhi).

Rajo Guna:

The person will be troubled by a hostile force which will pull him down to Samsara. He will exhibit vices like Damba, Darpa, and Krodha etc. The person will be restless. It will force him to continuous work. Rajasic type always wants company and talk. They have a tendency to look into defects of others. They remember bad deeds done to them by others and forget good deeds done by them. At times intense Rajas turns into Sattvic.

Tamo Guna:

Tamas has two basic characteristics: gurutva (heaviness) and avarnaka (the capacity of covering or concealing). Due to its gurutva guna, it suppresses and dominates over rajas and Sattva gunas. The third characteristic or the result of Tamoguna is visada, which refers to ignorance (ajnana), delusions (moha or mithya jnana), depression and similar properties


Avasthas Mind has got three Avasthas (states) – Jagrat (waking state), Svapna (dreaming state) and the Sushupti (deep sleep state).

Jagrat Avastha (waking state):

The individual soul is called awake as long as it is connected with external objects by means of the modifications of the mind. It identifies itself with the gross body


which is one of those external objects. During waking state the mind occupies the brain

Svapna Avastha (dreaming State):

In dream, the senses are thrown off. The senses are quiet and absorbed in the mind. Mind alone plays during dream state. Objects observed during waking state are used by the mind to project various forms. In the dream, the mind assumes different forms – flowers, mountains etc. In a dream, you could be talking to people whom you never met. The objects seen perceived during a dream have an external reality to the dreamer only and no one else. The mind is the subject. It is also the object. The seer and the seen are one. The perception takes place through an internal organ called “Manas”. So it is called “inner perception”. The difference between the waking state and the dreaming state is this. During waking state the mind depends on outward impressions. During dream state the mind creates its own impressions and enjoys them. In other words, in the Jagrat state objects exist independent of the mind. In the Svapna state, objects are manufactured out of the mind. When the mind drops to waking state, all dream objects vanish.

Sushupti Avastha (deep sleep state)

When the mind enters Puritat Nadi, the state of deep sleep sets in. In Dridah Sushupti (dreamless sleep) there is no play of mind. In here there is no play of Indriyas or organs. There is neither Raga nor Dvesha (attraction or dislike). You feel that you have existed even during sleep as soon as you are awake. Vedantins build their philosophy around this Sushupti Avastha. Sri Shankara observes that the phenomena of duality caused by the action of the mind are present in the waking and dreaming states only, but absent in deep sleep state. In waking and dreaming states, there is the play of the thoughts (and the simultaneous occurrence of names and forms) and hence the world as well. In dreamless sleep, there are no thoughts; and hence, there is no world too. We taste the nature of absolute bliss in dreamless sleep, where a man is cut off from the distracting world. It is the mind that creates differences, distinctions, duality and separateness.


Roots – Hindu Yoga


Sthula Shareera Sookshma Shareera Karana Shareera



1. Earth (Prithvi) 2. Water (Apah) 3. Fire (Tejas)

4. Air (Vayu)

5. Space (Akasa)



1. Chyle (Rasa) 2. Blood (Asra) 3. Flesh (Mamsa) 4. Fat (Medas)

5. Bone (Asthi)

6. Marrow (Majja) 7. Seman (Sukla)

Shad Vikaras


1. Existence (Asti)

2. Birth (Jayate)

3. Growth (Vardhate)

4. Change (Viparinamate) 5. Decay (Apaksheeyate) 6. Death (Vinashyate)

Links to Samsara


1. Body (deha)

2. Action (karma)

3&4 Love and hate (raga- dvesha)

5. Egoism (ahankara)

6. Non-discrimination (aviveka)

6. Ajnana (ignorance). Because the body decays

Principles (Tattvas)


5- Jnana Indriyas 5- Karma Indriyas 5- Pranas

1- Manas (mind)

1- Buddhi (intellect) 1- Chitta

1- Ahamkara

The Sookshma Shareera gets dissolved in Videha Mukti.


What is Karana Shareera

The great ignorance that is indescribable is called the causal body. It is the cause of gross and subtle bodies.


Roots – Hindu Yoga

(Sheeryate) due to old age it is called Sharira. Because it is cremated or burnt (dahyate), it is called Deha.

Sheaths – Table-2

Kosha means sheath. The body has 5 sheaths. The Atman is covered by these 5 sheaths. Anandamaya Kosha is the subtlest of them all. In decreasing order of subtlety come the rest of the Koshas – Vijnanamaya Kosha, Manomaya Kosha, Pranamaya Kosha and Annamaya Kosha.

1. Annamaya Kosha

2. Pranamaya Kosha.

It is the food sheath. It is called so because it lives on food. It is the gross

Location of Koshas in the Shareera

Sthula Shareera

Sookshma Shareera

Karana Shareera

1. Annamaya Kosha

2. Pranamaya Kosha.

3. Manomaya Kosha

4. Vijnanamaya Kosha

5. Anandamaya Kosha



Roots – Hindu Yoga

body made up of 5 gross elements

3. Manomaya Kosha

It is made up of Pranas (vital airs) plus the 5 karmendriyas (organs of action)

There are 5 Mukhya Pranas plus 5 Upa Pranas

(a) Mukya Pranas – 5 1. Prana

2. Apana 3. Vyana 4. Udana 5. Samana

(b) Upa Pranas – 5 1. Naga

2. Kurma

3. Krikara

4. Devadutta 5. Dhananjaya


1. Prana: Inhalation & Exhalation

2. Apana: Excretion of farces & Urine

3. Vyana: Circulation of blood 4. Udana: (a) Helps digestion

(b) Takes Jiva to rest in deep sleep

(c) Separates astral body from physical body at the time of death

5. Samana: Digestion of food


1. Naga: Burping

2. Kurma: Opening & closing of eyelids

3. Krikara: Causing hunger 4. Devadutta:

(a) Nourishing the body

(b) Decompose body after death

(c) Eject child out of womb at the time of child birth

4. Vijnanamaya Kosha

This is the Mind sheath

It consists of-

1. Mind (Manas)

2. Subconscious (Chitta) 3. Plus Five Jnanendriyas (Sense organs)


Roots – Hindu Yoga

5. Anandamaya Kosha

It is the Intellectual sheath

It consists of- Intellectual and the ego working with the help of Five Jnanendriyas

How many sheaths operate during

1. Annamaya Kosha

Waking state

Dreaming state

Deep sleep state

2. Pranamaya Kosha

3. Manomaya Kosha

4. Vijnanamaya Kosha

5. Anandamaya Kosha



Roots – Hindu Yoga

Sattva Guna

Rajo Guna

Tamo Guna

1. Annamaya Kosha

2. Pranamaya Kosha

3. Manomaya Kosha

4. Vijnanamaya Kosha

5. Anandamaya Kosha


Vikaras & Dharmas of various Koshas

1. Annamaya Kosha

Vikaras: Existence, birth, growth, change, decay and death

2. Pranamaya Kosha

Dharmas: Hunger, thirst, heat and cold.

3. Manomaya Kosha

Vikaras: Sankalpa- Vikalpa (thinking & doubting), anger, lust, harsha (exhilaration), Shoka (depression) and Moha.

4. Vijnanamaya Kosha

Functions: Discrimination and determination, Kartritva and Bhoktritva (agency and enjoyership)

5. Anandamaya Kosha

Dharma: Experience of happiness.



Roots – Sanatana Dharma

Chapter – XI – Sanatana Dharma Definition of Dharma

That which brings well-being to man is Dharma. The word Dharma is derived from the root Dhar, meaning to hold. That which holds the whole creation from macrocosm to microcosm is Dharma. It is the eternal Divine law of the Lord. The entire creation is held together and sustained by the law of the Supreme Being. Dharma covers not just external deeds only but also the internal or mental practices. According to the Hindus, Dharma comes from the Divine and leads you to the Divine. It is difficult to find a word in English which is equivalent to the word Dharma in Sanskrit. Sometimes it is defined as “righteousness” or “duty”. The best definition for Dharma has been given by Rishi Kanada, the founder of the Vaiseshika system of philosophy. He defines it as “Yato-bhyudayanihsreyasa-siddhih sa dharmah”. It means “that which leads to the attainment of Abhyudaya (prosperity in this world) and Nihsreyasa (total cessation of pain and attachment to eternal bliss hereafter) is Dharma”.

Changing Dharma

In the matter of Dharma, the Vedas are the ultimate authority. Hinduism prescribes different duties for different people. Rules for men are different from rules for the women. Rules for different Varnas and Ashramas vary. However non-violence, truth, non-stealing, cleanliness and control of senses are duties common to all men. Dharma also depends upon time, circumstances, age and degree of evolution. Under special circumstances variations are allowed (e.g.) Aapad dharma.

According to tradition in ancient days, there are fourteen branches of knowledge which are common to both general education and dharma. These are described as sources of vidya and dharma. The fourteen “chaturdasa vidyas” are – four Vedas, six Vedangas and six Upaangas. The six angaas of Veda are: Siksha, Vyakarana, Chandas, Niruktam, Jyotisham and Kalpa. The four Upaangas are: Puranas, Nyaya, Mimamsa and Smritis. The Smritis deal with the Dharma Shastra portion Vedangas. Between the Vedangas and Upaangas, almost all branches of knowledge are covered. Apart from these fourteen branches of knowledge four other branches of knowledge, known Upavedas, are included in the general education.

Vedas do mention here and there the duties and rites to be performed by us. Dharma Shastra deals with them in a codified form. However, it must be


Roots – Sanatana Dharma

emphasised that Vedas are the root of all dharma – “Vedo Khilo dharmamulam”. The work that the Vedas bid us to perform is both for our own wellbeing as-well as for the good of the world. But the rites and duties are not given in an orderly form in the Vedas.

The sixth Vedanga, Kalpa, contains Dharmasutras, Grhyasutras and Srautasutras relate rites based on Vedas. But Sutras (written by Apastamba, Gautama and others) are brief and do not constitute a detailed guide. This gap is filled by Dharma Shastras and they elaborate upon what is given in the Dharmasutras without leaving any room for doubt.

Manu, Parasara, Yajnavalkya, Gautama, Harita, Yama, Visnu, Sankha, Likhita, Brhaspati, Daksa, Angiras, Prachetas, Samvarta, Acanas, Atri, Apastamba and Satatapa are the eighteen sages who mastered the Vedas with their superhuman power and derived the Smritis from them.




As explained earlier Vedas are the root of all Dharma. However the rites and duties are not given in an orderly manner in the Vedas. Dharmasutras, Grhyasutras and Srautasutras relating to rites are based on the Vedas. Since Sutras contain only terse statements Dharma Shastras have been written to elaborate and make them easier for people to follow. Dharma Shastras are called Smritis and are in verse form. The Smritis contain detailed instructions on rituals to be conducted one has to perform through one’s entire life. Thorough though they, variances have been found among the Smritis. These are sought to be cleared by “Dharma Shastra Nibandhanas”. These Nibandhanas do not leave out any rite or Dharma and differences have also been reconciled.

There is a wrong impression about the Dharma Shastras even among those who treat them with respect. They think that the rules and duties of the Smritis were formulated by their authors on their own. They call these authors “lawgivers” who, in their opinion, laid down “laws” that reflect their own views. Further they think that the Dharma Shastras were composed in the same way as Constitution. If the Smritis really represent the views of the authors there is


Dharma Shastras or Smritis

Roots – Sanatana Dharma

nothing wrong in what these people think about them. But those who want the Dharma Shastras changed do not seem to know that the Smritis do not reflect the views of the sages who composed them. What the authors of the Smritis 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 Smritis.It is not correct to discriminate between Shruti and Smriti. Shruti, Smriti and the Puranas all the three belong to the same tradition. The rites that are not explicitly mentioned in the Vedas but are dealt with in the Smritis are called Smarta karmas and those that are explicitly mentioned are called Srauta karmas. This does not mean that the Smarta rites are in anyway inferior to Srauta.

Kinds of Dharmas

Dharma was classified as under according to Manu.

(1) Sanatana Dharma (Eternal Law)

(2) Samanya Dharma: Universal Dharma includes – Contentment,

forgiveness, self-restraint, non-stealing, purity, control of senses, discrimination between right and wrong, between real and un- real, spiritual knowledge, truthfulness and absence of anger.

(3) Vishesha Dharma: (Special duty)

(4) Varnashrama Dharma: (Duties of caste and order)

(5) Svadharma (One’s own duty)

(6) Yuga Dharma (Duty of the age)

(7) Kula Dharma (Duty of family)

(8) Manava Dharma (Duty of man)

(9) Stree Dharma (Duty of female)

(10) Raja Dharma (Duty of King)

(11) Praja Dharma (Duty of subjects)

(12) Pravritti Dharma (Duty in worldly life)

(13) Nivritti Dharma (Duty in spiritual life)

Sanatana Dharma

Sanatana Dharma means the eternal religion. This is based on Vedas. This is the oldest living religions. Hinduism is known by the name Sanatana Dharma. The foundation of Sanatana Dharma is Shruti. The Smriti stands next in


Roots – Sanatana Dharma

authority to the Shruti. Hinduism is highly flexible and adapted to every human need. In fact, the history of India is a history of religion.

Samanya Dharma

Every religion has a generic form or Samanya-rupa and a specific form Vishesha-rupa. The generic form almost never changes and remains the same. It is not affected by changes in time, place etc. Samanya Dharma is the general law for all men. Vishesha Dharma deals with special cases.

Basics of Dharma

Puranas like Padma Purana, Matsya Purana enumerate a number of fundamentals of Dharma. Examples are – forgiveness, truthfulness, charity, non-violence etc. Patanjali Maharshi recommends that ten virtues should be practiced by all men. The first five constitute Yama or self-restraint. They are – Ahimsa (non-violence), Satya (truthfulness), Brahmacharya (celibacy in thought, word and deed), Asteya (non-stealing) and Aparigraha (non- covetousness). The next five constitute Niyama or religious observance. They are- Saucha (internal and external purity), Santosha (contentment), Tapas (austerity), Svadhyaya (study of scriptures) and Isvarapranidhana (consecration of the fruits of all works to the Lord).

All the virtues may be regarded as branches of four cardinal virtues. They are (1) non-violence ;(2) truth (3) purity and (4) self control. The eternal cannot be attained without attainment of purity. Brahman is truth. Eternal cannot be attained without practicing truth. Brahman is fearlessness.

(1) Ahimsa: Ahimsa or non-violence is the most important virtue. Practice of Ahimsa must be in thought, word and deed. The practice demands immense patience, forbearance endurance, infinite inner spiritual strength and great will power.

(2)Truth: Brahman is Sat. Once truth must be observed in thought, word and deed. In Taittiriya Upanishad, it is said “Satyam Vada – speak the truth”

(3) Purity: It comprises both external (body) and internal purity (mind). One must be pure in thought, word and deed.

(4) Self Control: It implies control of both body and mind. Self control implies self-service, destruction of egoism, patience, endurance, forbearance and humility.


Roots – Sanatana Dharma

Varnashrama Dharma

The principle of Varnashrama dharma is one of the basic principles of Hinduism. The duties of the varnas are Varna dharma. The four varnas are Brahmana, Kshatriya, Vaisya and Shudra.

The division is according to Guna and Karma. Sattva guna predominates in Brahmanas; Rajo guna is predominant in the Kshatriyas; Tamo guna is predominant in Vaisya; there is no predominant guna in the Sudras. The philosophers correspond to the Brahmanas, warriors to Kshatriyas, trade to Vaisyas and action service to Shudras.

Ashrama Dharma

The four Ashramas or orders of life are – Brahmacharya, Grihasta, Vanaprastha and Sannyasa. The four Ashramas are stages in life. Brahmacharya or the period of studentship, Grihastha or the period of householder, Vanaprastha or the stage of forest dweller and Sannyasa or the life of renunciation. Each stage has its own duties. These stages help the evolution of man. The first two ashramas pertain to Pravritti marga or path of work. The last two stages pertain to Nivritti marga or the path of renunciation. Life is arranged in an orderly and systematic manner in Sanatana Dharma. There is opportunity for the development of the different sides of human activity. Due occupations and training are assigned to each period of life. Like in nature man’s evolution is gradual and not revolutionary.

Yuga Dharma

Dharma changes according to the Yugas. Man is undergoing change. So his external form of Dharmas should change. That which is achieved through contemplation in Satya Yuga, through sacrifices in Treta Yuga, through worship of Lord Narayana in Dvapara Yuga may be attained through Kirtanas of Lord Vishnu’s name in Kali Yuga.


Chapter XII – Hindu Theological Classification


Hinduism is extremely liberal, tolerant, and elastic. This is the wonderful feature of Hinduism. A foreigner (visiting India) is struck with astonishment when he hears about the diverse sects and creeds of Hinduism. But these varieties are really the strength of Hinduism. They are certainly not its defects. There are various types of minds and temperaments. So there should be various faiths as well. This is but natural. This is the cardinal tenet of Hinduism. There is room in Hinduism for all types of souls- from the highest to the lowest and for their growth and evolution. Hinduism provides food for reflection for the different types of thinkers and philosophers from all over the world. All sorts of philosophy are necessary. What appeals to one may not appeal to another and what is easy for one may be difficult for another. Sanatana-Dharmists, Arya-Samajists, Deva- Samajists, Jainas, Buddhists, Sikhs and Brahmo-Samajists rose from Hinduism, and emphasized one or more of its aspects.

Hindus believe that the Vedas are of divine origin and the term śhruti (“what is heard”) refers to this. The Hindu belief that the cosmos is eternal; was not created and will always exist, also applies to the Hindu view of the Vedas. The Vedas is divine knowledge and is only “heard” by humans (apauruṣeya – meaning not of human agency). The Vedas is integrated into the life of Hindus, though many Hindus have never read it. Vedic mantras are recited at Hindu prayers, religious functions and other auspicious occasions.

The various Indian religious sects differ in their ideas about the Vedas. Hindus cite the Vedas as scriptural authority and they class themselves as “orthodox” (āstika). Buddhism and Jainism, two religious sects with a close affinity to Hinduism, do not regard the Vedas as scriptual authority and Hindus refer to them as “heterodox” or “non-orthodox” (nāstika). Hinduism places very little importance on criticism of other religions because Hindus believe that the path to God transcends all human thought. In this respect, a Hindu would not consider Buddhism or Catholicism to be wrong, only different.

The Sutras or aphorisms of Sri Veda Vyasa forms one of the basis for Vedanta philosophy. The Sutras have been differently interpreted by various commentators. These different interpretations formed the basis for the different schools of philosophy – Kevala Advaita (Sri Shankaracharya), Vishishtadvaita (Sri Ramanujacharya), Dvaita (Sri Madhvacharya),


Bhedabheda (Sri Nimbarkacharya), Suddha Advaita (Sri Vallabhacharya), Acintya Bhedabheda (Sri Chaitanyaswamy).

The Upanishads, Brahma-sutras and the Bhagavad-Gita are regarded as basic classics for Vedanta. Upanishads are many and are cast in a language, which is ancient. Except for the highly learned, they appear to project divergent metaphysical ideas! Brahma-sutras come to the scene at this stage. Their function was to co-ordinate the teachings and set forth a logical justification of the doctrines advanced. Reason was the supreme instrument in this process. While doing this, the substance of the thoughts were not well formulated. Bhagavad-Gita filled this gap. It draws up pictures of ideal life and offers comprehensive directions for ethical and spiritual realisation. The Upanishads and the Brahma-sutras offered little scope to the Acharyas for developing a philosophy of conduct and self-culture. The Bhagavad-Gita offered the greatest scope. By and large it is in the rendering of the philosophy of the Gita and the subtle differences in their interpretations that has led to the different systems of Vedanta

The Rig-Veda declares – Truth is one; sages call it by various names – “Ekam Sat Vipra Bahudha Vadanti.” The Upanishads declare that all the paths lead to the same goal, just as cows of different colours yield the same white milk. Lord Krishna says in the Gita: ‘Howsoever men approach Me, even so do I welcome them, for the path men take from every side is Mine.” All diversities are organized and united in the body of Hinduism.

In the following pages, we will examine some of the notable schools of philosophy.

Advaita Philosophy of Sri Shankaracharya Brahman, the only Reality

The word Advaita means “non-dual”, “one without a second”. The system recognizes Brahman (the Absolute) as the only reality and denies permanent reality to all others such as the Jagat (the world) and the Jivas (individual souls). The word Brahman comes from the root “Brah” which means vastness, power, and growth. Thus, Brahman indicates the Supreme Being.

Anirvachaneeya Khyaati

However, this world consisting of you, me and millions of other living beings – the world of multiplicity is our day to day experience. Hence, it becomes necessary to offer an explanation as to how Brahman, the One without a second, appears as this world of multiple names and forms. The explanation given by Advaita is that it is an erroneous cognition – Anirvachaneeya Khyaati. An example for an erroneous cognition is given. Imagine the viewing


in semi darkness of a coil of a rope. You are convinced that a snake is superimposed on a rope and get frightened. You switch a light on. And you could see that it is just a coil of a rope. It is the darkness and your imagination that has played a trick on you. Similar is the case when dealing with this world. The darkness of ignorance is the cause of illusory presentation of multiplicity. In the presence of the light of knowledge, the illusion disappears. And the non-dual Parabrahman will be the ultimate truth that will be revealed. This superimposition is called “Adyaasa”. It is the cause for the “Mithyajnaana” (false knowledge). The perception of the snake is neither Sat (real) nor Asat (unreal). It is not unreal, since it has actually been perceived. It is also not real since it disappeared as soon as the darkness vanished. To explain such a peculiar phenomenon Sri Shankara creates a third type of perceived objects, which is called “ Sad – Asad vilakshana”. The “Khyaati” or cognition itself is described as “Anirvachaneeya” – incapable of precise definition or description.

Ajnaana or Avidya

The basis for erroneous perception is termed Ajnaana or Avidya (Ignorance). This ignorance or Avidya is supposed to be Bhaavaroopa (existent) and has two powers or Shakti. The first power is “Aavarana Shakti”. It has the power to veil the true nature. The second one is “Vikshepa Shakti” – the power to transform. It showed the rope as the snake. The apparently transformed object is called “Vivarta” of the original. The theory that propounds this is called “Vivarta vaada”.


Now we are ready to explain how this world consisting of innumerable living beings has evolved out of the non-dual Reality called Parabrahman. The world that we live in and experience every day can be broadly divided into two categories – (1) the “Drk” – the one who sees (2) The “Drisya” – those that are seen. Both these in turn consist of innumerable living beings (Jivas) and countless objects if creation. It is Avidya or ignorance that causes the Brahman to appear as many Jivas. It is Maya that causes this world of phenomenon. Maya is Avidya at the cosmic level.


Three Degrees of Reality

Sri Shankara accepts three degrees of Reality.

1. Praatibhaasika Satya: It means apparent truth. The rope appearing as the snake illustrates this. It is illusory in nature.

2. Vyaavahaarike Satya : This is illustrated by our day to day experience. This has a much higher degree of reality and lasts for a longer time than the previous category. It lasts till one gets Aatma Jnaana or Brahma Jnaana.

3. Paramaarthika Satya: This is the highest truth and the only truth that exists. This truth is Brahman or Aatman. This Brahman or Aatman is Nirguna (without any attributes) and Niraakaara (without any form). Due to this, it is not possible to describe Brahman except, perhaps, in negative terms (neti, neti – not this, not this).


According to this philosophy, Brahman associated with Maya is Saguna Brahman (Brahman with attributes). It is this aspect of Brahman that is responsible for creation, preservation and destruction.

Sri Shankara proposes that this world of process is illusory – Vivarta. As such, the various steps towards evolution of it are not an important topic. In any case he characterizes such descriptions as giving the “tatasthalakshana” of Brahman. It means accidental or casual characteristics. He emphasizes that Brahman can be comprehended only through its “Swaroopalakshana”. Swaroopalakshana refers to the essential characteristics. The essential characteristics of Brahman are – Sat (eternal reality), Chit (pure consciousness) and Ananda (unalloyed bliss). Sat-Chit-Ananda is not merely its characteristics. In fact, it is its essence.



This Brahman or Aatman, which is Sat-Chit-Ananda, has inexplicably got itself involved in the body-mind complex. This involvement is due to Avidya. Since, the origin of this involvement cannot be satisfactorily explained, Avidya is stated to be “anaadi” or that without any beginning. This involved Aatman is designated as “Jiva”.

This Jiva or Aatman-in-bondage performs actions motivated by desires, experiences pleasure and pain due to Karma. It undergoes the cycle of birth and death till it is liberated. Sri Shankara declares that this Jiva when shorn of its Upaadhis or limiting adjuncts like the body and mind is identical with Brahman. For both, the Swaroopalakshana is Sat-Chit-Ananda.

Sadhanas and Mukti

The main problem with the Aatman in bondage is its “Taadaatmya” or false identification with the body and mind. Adhyaasa or superimposition brings this about. The only remedy for this is de-superimposition or Apavaada. This process involves a few stages. The first stage is a preliminary fourfold discipline called “Saadhana Chatushtaya”. (1) Viveka (discrimination between the eternal and the non-eternal). (2) Vairaagya (dispassion). (3) Shatka Sampatti (cultivation of six virtues – Sama, Dama, Uparama, Titiksha, Shraddha and Samadhana). (4) Mumuksutva (desire for liberation). The second stage is to approach a competent Guru and learn the Truth from him. This will lead to the ultimate realization that one is Aatman. This realization leads to Mukti or liberation. This realization resulting in Mukti can be had while one is living in this body. It is called “Jivanmukti”. Then, Mukti is not liberation from transmigration but recognizing the already existing original state.

Vishishtaadvaita Philosophy of Sri Ramanujacharya

The Vishishtadvaita Vedanta Darsana is not a creation of Sri Ramanujacharya (AD 1017-1137) alone. It started much earlier to him. The twelve Alwars like Nammalvar, Kulasekhara and Andaal as also Acharyas like Naathamuni (AD 824 to 924), Yamuna (AD 918-1038).

Sri Ramanuja evolved the system out of the more ancient teachings. However, Sri Ramanuja was its best exponent. As a result of the stupendous work he turned out in the cause of the system, it is often referred to as “Ramanuja Darsana”. The system accepts both the Sanskrit Prasthaanatraya and the Tamil Prabandhams as equally authoritative. Hence, the philosophy is also called “ Ubhaya Vedanta ”.



Vishishtaadvaita accepts three entities as ultimate realities – 1.Brahman or Ishvara

2.Jiva or Chit

3.Prakruti or Achit.

Of these, Brahman is the absolute and independent reality. The other two, Jiva and Prakruti are dependent realities. The three together are called “Tattvatraya”.

The Vedanta of the Upanishads mainly preaches the doctrine of Absolute being, who is the non-dual source, substratum and dissolving ground of the many that constitute this world of our experience. Sri Shankaracharya interprets this Non-dual being in whom this world of many is a mere appearance ascribed by ignorance and not actually existing. He gives, however, a prima facie reality (Vyaavahaarika Satya) to the world of the many and also to the God who is its cause. This God is the Saguna Brahman. When ignorance is overcome by proper metaphysical insight, the aspirant realises that what he considered as his “I” is really the Absolute Brahman into whom the world and the God dissolve. According to Sri Shankara an unmodified and attributeless Consciousness alone is the ultimate reality.

Sri Ramanuja disagrees with this doctrine on the fronts of

1. Saguna Brahman ; who is less than the Absolute


2. theory of ignorance or Maya ; Compartmentalisation of

reality into Paramaarthika (ultimate reality) and 3. Vyaavahaarika(daytodayreality).

Sri Ramanuja disagrees that the Supreme Being is Nirguna (without attributes) and Niraakaara (without a form). According to him, in all theisms God must be supremely adorable and infinitely good Personal Being, who is distinct from the world and the multiplicity of spirits. He cannot be a quality- less impersonal being as if He is not responsive to prayers and worship.

Sri Ramanuja proposes the Supreme Lord with an archetypal form, which does not, however, limit Him. The Lord can take any form He likes as He pervades every being as their indweller and container. The Lord is not one without attributes. Out of the countless attributes five are central. 1) Satyam (Truth unconditioned and changeless), (2) Jnanam (all comprehending knowledge), (3) Anantam (excellences unlimited by time, space etc), (4)


Ananda (immeasurable bliss) and (5) Amalatvam (stainless-ness or incorruptibility (i.e.) freedom from the hold of Karma which is the cause of all imperfections in Jivas.)

Apart from the above attributes, called as Lord Narayana’s Swaroopa, He has other countless auspicious qualities (Kalyaana Gunas). The important six qualities are identified as Bhagas. They are Jnana (omniscience), Bala (omnipotence), Aishvarya (lordship), Shakti (creative power), Virya (immutability) and Tejas (splendour). Few other significant qualities are Gaambhirya (inestimable grandeur), Audaarya (generosity) and Kaarunya (compassion).


Sri Shankara establishes the unity of the Parabrahman by his theory of Adhyasa (superimposition). According to him Avidya (ignorance) is the cause of this superimposition. In other words, multiplicity (of many Jivas and Jagat) is ultimately unreal. However, according to Sri Ramanuja, the plurality of the Jivas and the changeful order of the Jagat (Nature) are real. The unity lies in the fact of their being held together in inseparable union (Aprthaksiddhi) with the Supreme Being. They have no existence apart from Him. Aprthaksiddhi can be explained by an analogy. The body of the man consists of millions of individual cells. Each cell or part of the body may have its own function to do. All of them combined result in the formation of the body – unified as a whole by the will or life energy of the body. They solely serve the interests of the body. Apart from the whole (i.e. the body) they do not have a separate existence. If separated from the body they perish. The relationship between the Jiva and Brahman is similar. The only difference is – there can be no separation between them. They are inseparable – though in a state of ignorance the Jiva may not experience or understand it. The relationship between Jagat and Brahman is also similar. Hence, there is no separate origination as Jivas and Jagat. They always exist as part of Brahman as His body or mode.

According to Sri Ramanuja, the Jiva or individual self is different from the Ishawara though individually connected to Him as His mode. Jiva essentially is a conscious entity – Jnana Swaroopa. Its consciousness has two aspects. The first is its basic or substantive consciousness, called Dharmi- Jnana. By virtue of this Dharmi-Jnana, the Jiva has self-awareness and only that. The second is the attributive consciousness of the Jiva, called Dharma-bhuta- Jnana. It is this consciousness that makes it aware of others including Ishawara. In the state of ignorance, due to the load of Karma, the Jiva is almost one with the unconscious matter, the Prakruti. However, Dharmi- Jnana keeps up its individuality and the possibility of developing the Dharma-


bhuta-Jnana. Hence, what stands in the way of this expansion of Dharma- bhuta-Jnana is the load Karma. Karma is the effect of the actions of the Jivas in the previous embodiments. Divine will causes Jivas to obtain bodies suited for their enjoyment of their Karmas.

Jivas and Jagat exist in two states – one during Pralaya (dissolution) and the other during Srishti (creation). Pralaya and Srishti are eternally continuing states like day and night. The motivating power between these two states is the will of God. In the Pralaya State, Jivas and Jagat (or Prakruti) would be reduced to their primordial condition and would be latent in Brahman without any distinction. In Srishti (or creation), caused by the will of the Brahman, they gain patency and diversity through a process of evolution.

Insentient matter is known as Prakruti. It becomes dynamic by the will of Lord Narayana. Its dynamism expresses itself as the alternating process of Srishti and Pralaya. Involvement of Jiva in the recurring process of Prakruti is called Samsara. It takes the form of repeated successions of births and deaths, with loads of enjoyment and suffering determined by the effect of maturing load of Karmas called Praarabdha of the Jivas. This will continue till Jiva becomes aware of its true nature and its relationship with God. Release from this is called Moksha.

Means of Liberation

Mumukshus, or those desirous of liberation, have to know three things- (1) Tattvatraya or Reality (2) Hita or the means of attaining that Reality (3) Purushaartha or the nature of attainment.

We have already discussed Tattvatraya.

Scriptures have described Hita in various ways. They can be grouped under five headings referred to as “ Arthapanchaka”. They are (1) Sva-svaroopa (One’s own nature). (2) Para-Swaroopa (nature of God). (3) Purushaartha (nature of four ends in life) (4) Upaaya-Swaroopa(nature of the means to liberation). (5) Virodhi-Swaroopa (nature of obstacles in spiritual path).

We have already discussed 1 and 2. Purushaarthas are four. (1) Dharma (practice of righteousness). (2) Artha (Material gains). (3) Kama (Pleasures and enjoyments in life). (4) Moksha (freedom from Samsara). Mumukshu should realise that the real Purushaartha is Moksha.

Upaaya, or the means of liberation, is fivefold. (1) Karma . This includes acts such as Yagna, Dana, Sandhya, Panchayajnaas, Dhyana, Teertha yatra etc. Jnana or Jnana yoga consists of self-renouncement (Vairagya) and ceaseless practice of contemplation on Lord Narayana. This leads to the realisation of the Self but not that of the Lord.


The next step is Bhakti or Bhakti-yoga. This marks the consummation of the moral and spiritual endeavour as attained in the other two Yogas. The seven aids to Bhakti are (1) Viveka. Purification of the body as a temple (2) Vimoka, which means inner detachment. (3) Adhyasa. It refers to ceaseless practice of God as the inner self. (4) Kriya. It refers to service to all beings. (5) Kalyaana. It is the practice of virtues. (6) Anavasaada. It is freedom from despair. Have faith in the Lord and leave the burden on Him (7) Anuddharsa. It is the absence of exultation.


It is the concept of total surrender. It is specially addressed to those who are unable to practice the Karma yoga, Jnana yoga or Bhakti yoga. Its main characteristics are to conceive what is in conformity with the will of God; to reject what is disagreeable to Him; to seek Him as the sole refuge and protector and surrender to Him completely. It can be practiced by anyone without any distinction of cast or creed.

Acharya abhimaana is the strong faith in the Guru and his affectionate attachment to the disciple.

The obstacles to the spiritual path (Vorodhi), which are the last of the Arthapanchaka , are again fivefold. (1) Obstacles to the realisation of the Self (2) To the realisation of God (3) To Moksha (4) To the means of the realisation (5) To the attainment of the goal.

State of Liberation

The liberated soul has a direct vision of Brahman in Vaikuntha and is absorbed in the eternal bliss of union with Him (Saayujya). To him the pluralistic world remains but the pluralistic view is removed. The distinction between Brahman and him remains but there is no loss of personality. He will continue forever to enjoy this state of bliss by serving Brahman.

Thus Vishishtadvaita is not dry metaphysics, but a philosophy of religion. In it, reason and faith are nicely synthesised. It guarantees the vision of God and salvation to all finite beings, human, sub-human or celestial. The view that God is immanent in all for the purpose of cosmic redemption inspires the feeling that the God of all religions is ultimately one, though various sects may give different accounts of Him.

Tenkalai and Vadakalai Schools of thought

The two different schools of thought came to light many years after Sri Ramanujacharya. The Vadakalai sect of Sri Vaishnavism associates


themselves with the great Acharya Vedanta Desika. Sri Pillai Lokacharya is associated with the Tenkalai sect. Acharya Desika has mentioned that there are no differences on essential points and the differences are in interpretation only. The following table highlights some of the differences

Sl No

View Point




Position & Role of Sri Mahalakshmi



Sri Mahalakshmi’s role and


(a) She acts as a mediator

pleading with Sriman Narayana to forgive the faults of the Jeevatma (the Baddha category) and grant his wishes)

(c)Just as Lord Narayana She, by Herself, is the means for attaining Paramapada (Upaya)

c) She is also the object of attainment (Upeya)

(a)Accept the view regarding the role of Sri Mahalakshmi as the mediator

(b) Do not Accept the view that

She is also the means for attaining Paramapada

(c)Accept that She, along with Lord Narayana, is the object of attainment


Sri Mahalakshmi is Paramatma (along with Sri Narayana) and NOT a Jeevatma

Sri Mahalakshmi

is a Jeevatma, like any of us


Sri Mahalakshmi is infinite (Vibhu) in nature

Sri Mahalakshmi

is atomic in nature, like a Jeevatma.



Kaivalya is inferior to Paramapada or Moksha. So Kaivalya is located outside SriVaikuntha

Accept that Kaivalya is inferior to Sri Vaikuntha. However, Kaivalya is located just outside SriVaikuntha but still within it.

The liberated Jeevatmas, Muktas, enjoy eternally Paramapada.

“Kaivalya” wherein a person attains the state in which he simply meditates on his own self.Those who have performed Jnana Yoga perceive and enjoy their own souls


Bhakti and Prapatti Margas

Accept that Bhakti as the means for Moksha. However, Bhakti Marga is more difficult while Prapatti is easy and immediate

Does not accept Bhakti Marga as a means The Jeevatma is entirely dependent on Lord Narayana. So

he is incapable of adopting Bhakti or Prapatti Marga as a means for Liberation



Prapatti has to be a positive and specific act of surrender by the Jeevatma

Does not consider that a positive act of surrender is


to Paramatma.

necessary. The

view is – (a)Knowledge of

the Swaroopa

of Jeevatma. (b) Confidence and

mental acceptance that the Lord will grace him liberation is essential.


Lord’s grace (Kripa)

A positive effort must be made by the Jeevatma to win the grace of Lord Narayana. The Lord cannot grant Moksha in an arbitrary manner. He could be accused of partiality. It is like Markata- Kishora Nyaya. The baby has to make an effort in clinging to the mother while being transported.

Lord’s grace is spontaneous. He is not answerable to anyone. He can grant Moksha to anyone He considers worthy. It is like Marjala- Kishora Nyaya where the bay does not have to make an effort. The mother grabs the baby and transports it.



When the Jiva surrenders, Lord Narayana overlooks the sins committed by His devotees.

Just like a mother cow does not hate the calf for the dirt on its body. The dirt is eventually cleaned by the mother cow.


Performance of compulsory duties Sandhya-Vandana

The compulsory duties are laid down in the Shastras which is tantamount to Lord’s commandments. All people will be expected to

For exalted souls, about to receive the Lord’s grace, it will not be considered an offence to give up the performance these duties.


Interpretation of Charana Sloka

The Dharmas that are referred to in the Shloka relate to the Vidyas in the Bhaktiyoga. Due to his inability, the aspirant seeking Moksha has already given up these Vidyas.

As per the Shloka all dharmas must be given up first, before seeking refuge of the Lord.

This is the noblest of all Slokas in the Bhagavat Gita. To Sri Ramanujacharya, this is the final verse of Bhagavat Gita (Charama Shloka) – chapter 18; Shloka 66. What does it say – “Sarvadharman Parityajya Mam Ekam Sharanam Vraja | Aham tva Sarva Papebhyo Mokshayishyami Masuchaha”

The implied meaning as per Sri Ramanuja is- perform Sadhanas like Karma yoga, Jnana yoga, Bhaktiyoga etc, he can perform this


alternative Sadhana through Charama Shloka. The first part of the Shloka states – Having given up all Dharmas or rites unintentionally, surrender to the Lord alone. This is the thing to be done by the doer of Saranaagati. The second sentence assures. “I will release you from all sins and give Moksha; Do not despair”. The message conveyed is – “Your knowledge is limited; Your ability is insignificant; Your life is short; You are also impatient of delay; Therefore do not go about seeking other Upayas which you cannot fully understand; which you cannot easily adopt to. Realise that I, who am easy to access to all, who am the Saviour of the worlds and who am endowed with attributes essential for a Saviour, am the only Upaya and perform the surrender.”


Lord’s grief at the suffering of souls

One can have grief, when he finds himself incapable of removing the suffering of another. In this case, the Lord is capable of removing the suffering of any one. So there is no need for Him to grieve. Sri Rama has shown how a human would feel and how one should react on seeing the misery of others.

The Lord also grieves when a person is suffering


Lord is everywhere

Lord is smaller than the atom in beings that are atomic in size. This is called “Antar Vyapti” (Immanence). He is also present in infinite sizes. This is called “Bahir Vyapti”(Transcendence)

His presence in atomic and infinite sizes is achieved by special powers that He possesses. It is called “Agatitha Ghatana Saamartya”. He can perform anything which is not possible to anyone else.


Dvaita philosophy of Sri Madhvacharya

Sri Madhvacharya (1239-1319) evolved a dualistic system of philosophy interpreting the Prasthana Traya – Upanishads, Bhagavad Gita and Brahma Sutra. It is an unqualified dualism. It is also called Sad Vaishnavism in order to distinguish it from Sri Vaishnavism of Sri Ramanujacharya.

Sri Madhvacharya is known by several other names – Ananda Tirtha, Sukha Tirtha, Poornaprajna, Purna-bodha. His philosophy is also known by various other names – Bheda-vaada, Tattva vaada, Bimba-pratibimba- vaada.

Sri Madhvacharya’s philosophy has many points in common with that of Sri Ramanujacharya. (1) Hari (Sriman Narayana) is the Supreme being (2) Prakruti or the world is real (3) Jiva is real (4) Hari is the independent reality, where as animate and inanimate objects are dependent realities – but they are different. (4) Perception, inference and scriptures (Vedas) are the three Pramaanas – means of knowledge.

Dvaita Philosophy

Sri Madhvacharya makes an absolute distinction between the Supreme Being and the animate, inanimate objects – it is a philosophy of absolute differences – it is Atyanta Bheda Darsana. He insists on Pancha-Bheda (5 great distinctions).

1.Distinction between Sri Hari and Jeevatma 2.Distinction between Sri Hari and matter 3.Distinction between Jeevatma and matter 4.Distinction between one Jeevatma and another

Tenets of Tattvavaada

There are nine important points to be noted.

1.Sri Hari (Sri Vishnu) is supreme

2.Universe is real

3.The five differences stated above are real

4.There is plurality of Jivas and all of them are dependent on Sri Hari 5.There are different grades among the Jivas.

6.Mukti is the experience of Jiva’s own innate joy.

7.Mukti is achieved by flawless devotion to the Supreme Lord and having

correct knowledge

8.The three Pramaanas are – Pratyaksha, Anumaana and Agama


9.Sri Hari is the only entity (primarily) described in all Vedas.


Divine Hierarchy (Taaratamya)

The Supreme Being is Sri Hari. He may be worshipped by all other deities and by everyone to their best ability. All other deities are iconic representatives of the Lord, and not independently authoritative figures. Madhvas believe that all deities except Sri Hari’s eternal consort Sri Maha Lakshmi are “aamukta Jivas” (un-liberated souls) performing service to Him.

Madhvas have a hierarchy of deities after Sri Hari. This is important in consideration of worship, since each lesser deity is worshipped as an iconic representative of the next higher one. The idea is that, ultimately, all worship is meant for Sri Hari only. The system accepts a hierarchy of worth among deities other than Sri Hari. Each lesser deity is akin to an image in a mirror of the higher one. This concept of images captures (a) a notion of difference (since the object and image are not identical) (b) a hierarchy of worth (since the image does not have the same worth as the object). It is for this reason the philosophy is referred to as “Bimba- pratibimba- vaada”. This Taaratamya, imposes the discipline that the icon should never be worshipped as the Lord.

Supreme Being and His Consort

The Supreme Being is Sri Hari or Sri Maha Vishnu and He is the personal first cause. He lives in Vaikuntha along with Sri Maha Lakshmi. Both are Real. Brahma and Vaayu are His sons. One can know His nature through the study of Vedas. He manifests Himself through various Vyuhas and through Avataras. He is present in the sacred images. He is also the Antaryamin or inner controller of various souls. He creates, maintains and destroys the world.

He is free from Doshas or faults. He is endowed with all auspicious qualities. He is Omni-potent and independent. He is beyond time and space. He is greater than Sri Maha Lakshmi. However, there is no one else greater than Sri Maha Lakshmi. She is foremost of the dependents. She is His Shakti or Energy. She is co-eternal with the Lord and all pervading. She is Nitya Mukta (eternally free from Samsara).


The Lord is the efficient but not the material cause of Prakruti. (because Prakruti is world stuff and is different from Him). Prakruti is the material cause of the world. All objects, bodies, organs of the soul are made out of Prakruti. The Lord energizes Prakruti through Sri Maha Lakshmi. Avidya, is a form of Prakruti obscuring the spiritual powers of the individual soul. Mahat,


Ahamkara, Buddhi, mind, the five Jnanendriyas, the five Karmendriyas and the five great elements are all odifications of the Prakruti.

Plurality and Classification of Jivas

There is plurality of Jivas. They are all atomic in size. No two Jivas are alike in character. There are different grades among them. The Jivas are different




Those eligible for Moksha


Nitya Samsarin Subject to eternal rebirth

Those not eligible for Moksha


Those whose destiny is hell

from the Lord and Prakruti. Though limited in size, the Jiva pervades the body owing to the quality of its intelligence. They depend on the guidance of the Lord. The Lord impels the Jivas to action in accordance to their previous conduct. Bliss is their basic nature. However, the connections with material bodies due to their past Karma make them suffer and undergo the cycle of birth and death. This will go on till their impurities are removed. After that they attain Moksha.

As in Vishishtadvaita the souls are classified into Nitya, Mukta and Baddha categories. The following figure explains the classifications. Some souls are pre-ordained for final emancipation by their inherent aptitude. Some others are eternally destined either to wander in Samsara without end or to go to the world of darkness. Sattvika souls go to heaven. Rajasa souls revolve in Samsara and Tamasa souls fall into hell.


Bhakti is the means for Salvation

Bhakti is the only means for Salvation. All Jivas attain salvation through the grace of God. That grace comes to the devotee through the mediator – Vaayu, the son of Lord Vishnu. God cannot be approached directly. Vaayu is the mediator. The greater the intensity of devotion the greater will be His grace. Worship of God is the indispensable preliminary condition for obtaining His grace.

The worship of Sri Vishnu consists of four practices –

1.Ankana: Marking the body with His symbols 2.Namakarana: Giving names of the Lord to children 3.Bhajana: Singing His glories

4.Smarana: Constant practice of remembering God.

Achintya Bhedabheda Philosophy of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu

Chaitanya Mahaprabhu or Gauranga (1486 – 1534) is regarded as a great Vaishnava teacher. He was a saint as well as a social reformer. He had a large heart and accepted converts from Islam freely. His disciple Haridas was a Muslim Fakir. Popular belief is that he is an incarnation of Lord Krishna. He was a notable proponent of the Vaishnava school of Bhakti Yoga based on the philosophy of Bhagavata Purana and Bhagavad Gita. He worshipped the forms of Radha and Krishna. He has left one written record in Sanskrit called Siksastaka.

Chaitanya’s epistemological, theological and ontological teachings are summarized as ten roots or maxims – dasa mula

1.The statements of amnaya (scripture) are the chief proof. By these statements the following nine topics are taught.

2. Krishna is the Supreme Absolute Truth.

3. Krishna is endowed with all energies.

4. Krishna is the ocean of rasa

5. The jivas (individual souls) are all separated parts of the Lord.

6. In bound state the jivas are under the influence of matter, due to their


7. In the liberated state the jivas are free from the influence of matter, due to

their nature.

8. The jivas and the material world are both different from and identical to the


9. Pure devotion is the practice of the jivas. 10.Pure love of Krishna is the goal.

11.Krishna is the only lovable blessing to be got.


Ultimate Reality

The ultimate reality is Lord Vishnu. He is Sat-Chit-Ananda. As he is free from the qualities of Maya and for this reason he is Nirguna. But then He is Saguna also because He is endowed with attributes – Omnipotent and Omniscience. He is the material and efficient cause of the world.

Just as the Sun has both light and heat, Lord Krishna has energies which are both mysterious and incomprehensible.


The Lord creates the Universe from the principle of Mahat. Beyond that, further work on creation is given to Lord Brahma. Jivas and matter are manifestation of God’s energy.

Lord appears in Different Forms

The Lord assumes endless forms. He appears in Avataras also. He manifests as Brahman to Jnaanis; as Paramatma to yogins; and as Bhagavan full of glories and attributes to His Bhaktas.


His philosophy is called Achintya Bhedabheda. It represents the philosophy of inconceivable one-ness and also the difference. It occupies a position of midway between pure monism (God and soul as one entity) and pure dualism (God and soul are absolutely separate). The world and soul depend on God, though they are separate and distinct from Him. They are neither one with God nor different from Him. There is an incomprehensible “difference- non- difference” .

The Lord

Lord Krishna is recognized as Svayam Bhagavan. This title is used to represent to designate Krishna only. Krishna is accepted to be the source of all Avatars. The term Svayam Bhagavan refers to the absolute representation of the monotheistic God within Hinduism. God assumes infinite forms and the chief is that of Krishna. Radha is the essence of the delight giving power of Lord Krishna.

The Jiva

Jiva is of atomic size. He is the eternal servant of the God. He bears the same relationship to God that the Sun’s rays bear to the Sun. The ray though it radiates from the Sun is not part and parcel of the Sun and it is also not the Sun. Jiva is partly similar to God in respect of his spirituality and at the same


time dissimilar to God due to his animal nature and susceptibility to the influence of Maya. Hence he is not God himself.

Jiva is bound by the power of Maya. Maya makes him forget his real, essential and divine nature. When he is thus influenced, he can have no knowledge of Lord Krishna. Lord Krishna out of his infinite mercy created the Vedas and reveals Himself to the Jiva through the media of scriptures, Guru and intuition. The Jiva is then convinced that the Lord Krishna is his Lord and saviour.

Jiva can have God realization through spiritual love or Prema to Lord Krishna. Bhakti overcomes the force of Karma. He is then freed from the cycle of birth and death. The devotee who has developed Prema is in constant communion with the Lord. He never cares for earthly objects or material success. Krishna Prema is regarded as a supreme attainment.

Other teachings

Veneration of the Guru is fundamental feature of Sri Chaitanya’s teachings. Study of the Vedas, the Bhagavata Purana etc is inculcated. Mercy towards creatures, humility, purity of heart, truthfulness, freedom from mundane desires is essential. Distinction of caste is to be ignored. Anyone can obtain the grace of God.

Saiva Siddhanta Philosophy

The Saiva Siddhanta School is one of the most ancient schools of Saivism having a history of more than 2000 years. Currently it is popular mostly in the south of India. Its philosophy midway between Sri Shankaracharya’s Advaita and Sri Ramanujacharya’s Vishishtadvaita. Its literature consists mainly of

1.The 28 Saivaite Agamas

2.“Tirumurai” – a collection Saivaite hymns

3.“Periya Puranam” – collection of lives of Saivaite saints. 4.“Siva jnana bodhanam” written by Sri Maykandar 5.“Sivajnana suddhiya” written by Sri Arulnandi

6.Works by Sri Umapathi

Saivism was made popular in the south India by a number of well-known saints. The prominent ones among them are – Appar, Sundarar, Sambandhar, and Manikkavachakar.

The central doctrine of the Saiva Siddhanta philosophy is that Lord Shiva is the Supreme Reality. Jiva is of the same essence as Shiva but not identical. Pati (soul), Pasu (bonds), Pasa (bonds) and the principles that constitute the world – 36 Tattvas (as recognized by Saivism) are all Real.


Supreme Reality

The Supreme Reality is Shiva. He is infinite, pure consciousness, eternal, changeless, formless. Omnipotent, omniscient, beginning-less, ever pure, ever perfect. He is not limited by space or time. He is Sat Chit Ananda. Lord Shiva is God of infinite love. Out of infinite love for mankind, He assumes the form of a Guru so that all could know Him and attain Shiva-Pada. He helps to liberate individual souls from the earthly bonds.

The five activities of the Lord are called Pancha Krityas.

1.Srishti (creation) 2.Sthiti (preservation) 3.Samhara (destruction) 4.Tirobhava (veiling) 5.Anugraha (grace)

Shiva, Shakti and Maya

Lord Shiva pervades the whole world by His Shakti. In fact, He works through His Shakti and She is the conscious energy of the Lord. She is the very body of the Lord Himself. Lord Shiva is the first cause of the world; Shakti is the instrumental cause and Maya the material cause for it. This is best understood by an example. The potter is the first cause for the pot. The stick and the wheel are the instrumental causes while the clay is the material cause for the pot. Shakti (nature of chaitanya) acts as an intermediate link between Lord Shiva (pure consciousness) and matter (pure unconsciousness)

Evolution of Tattvas from Maya

The world undergoes evolution for the benefit of souls. In fact, the entire process of creation is for the sake of salvation of souls. The Saiva Siddhanta analyses the universe into thirty six Tattwas or principles. These Tattwas arise from Maya.

Maya is classified into two types. (a) Shuddha Maya (b) Ashuddha Maya. The Shuddha Maya (pure Maya) gives rise to five pure principles –

(a) Shiva Tattwa (b) Shakti Tattwa (c) Sadasiva Tattwa (d) Ishvara Tattwa ; (e) Suddhavidya Tattwa.

Using these five Tattwas, Lord Shiva creates bodies, organs, worlds etc for the pure souls.

The Ashuddha Maya is the cause for the Prakruti- Maya. This gives rise to twenty four Tattwas – Pancha Mahabhutas (air, water, ether, fire and earth); their five qualities (touch, taste, sound, colour and odour); Five Karmendriyas-


organs of action (feet, hands, rectum, genitals, mouth); Five Jnanendriyas- sensory organs (ears, eyes, nose, tongue, skin); four internal organs (mans, Buddhi, chitta and Ahamkara). These impure Tattwas are used by Lord Shiva for the creation of bodies, organs, worlds for impure souls.

Binding the soul

Similar to Shiva, the Souls (Pasu) by nature are infinite, all pervading, eternal and all knowing. However, due to their bonds (Pasa), they think they are finite, limited, ignorant and temporary. Three bonds or Malas (impurities) are responsible for this ignorance. (a) Anava (b) Karma (c) Maya

(a)Anava: This is the impurity that makes the all- pervading Jiva to think itself to be finite and atomic (anu). It is a natural impurity and will remain with the soul till it attains Kaivalya or sameness with Lord Shiva.

(b)Karma:On account of its limitations the soul does good or bad actions. Karma binds the soul to the consequences of its actions. Karma brings about the conjunction of the soul and the body. The results of the karma have to be worked out in the world and knowledge acquired.

(c) Maya: Maya is the material cause of this world. The soul gets experience and limited knowledge through Maya. It binds the Jivas to sense objects through desires and ignorance. The soul learns by long experience that this Samsara is full of pains and is transitory. The soul develops Vairagya (dispassion) and Viveka (discrimination between the real and un-real; between the permanent and impermanent). Eventually, the Jiva learns that it can attain eternal happiness only by attaining Shivatva. However, Jiva cannot know God through the knowledge of the senses or the knowledge gained by the mind. Yet, it is not as if He is unknowable. He can be known by Pati-Jnana, either through a Guru or by the Lord’s grace. In Shaiva Siddhanta liberation is a gift from God. Knowledge of scriptures and routine prayers are not adequate for this ultimate gift. Lord Shiva, as a personal Guru, gifts it to devotees whom He judges as deserving.

Attainment of Shivatva or God realization

You must free yourself from the three bonds if you want to attain salvation. The bonds can be removed only through rigorous Tapas, proper discipline, help of a Guru and above all the grace of Lord Shiva. Four paths constitute


discipline and they are not alternatives to one another. Guru decides a suitable path for his disciple

a) Charya (observance): Involves serving Lord Shiva in a temple or a religious place. This is called Dasa-marga – the path of a servant. Various tasks such as – cleaning, cooking, gathering flowers etc may be performed.

b)Kriya (rites): Involves tasks such as worshipping the idol of Lord Siva, reciting mantras, dressing His idols etc. These are services similar to those performed by a son to his father. For this reason they are termed Sat-putra- marga.

c)Yoga (Yama, Niyama, etc.): Involves practicing Yoga exercises and meditation. This enables the devotee to live in constant company of the Lord. This is called Sakha-marga – the path o0f friendship

d)Jnana (path of knowledge): This is considered to be the direct and a superior path. It takes the Jiva closer to Sat or Truth.

When the aspirant practices in right earnest the path chosen for him, he obtains the grace of Lord Shiva. The Lord then instructs the soul, reveals Himself and illumines him. Attainment of Shivatva does not mean a complete merging of the soul with Shiva. The liberated soul does not lose its identity and continues as soul in God. Shivatva is thus an identity of essence in spite of difference – Bheda- abheda.


Jainism is said to be an ancient system of thought founded by Jainas. The last of them in recorded history was Vardhamana Mahavira (540 BC) of Vaisali. The Jain tattvas, or principles, form the crux of Jain philosophy. It deals with the theory of karma, which provides the basis for the path of liberation. Jain literature explains nine fundamental tattvas. Without the proper knowledge of these tattvas, a person cannot progress spiritually. The proper understanding of this subject brings about (a) right faith (samyak- darshana), (b) right knowledge (samyak- jnana), and (c) right conduct to an individual. The nine tattvas are tabled below.



Soul or living being (consciousness)


Non-living substances


Influx of karma


Bondage of karma






Stoppage or arrest of the influx of karma


Exhaustion of the accumulated karma


Total liberation from karma

Punya and Papa are the diverse results of Asrava and Bandh. Some exponents of Jains do not treat them as separate tattvas. According to them, there are only seven principles instead of nine.

Soul (Jiva) or Living Being Substance

Jiva or Soul is the only substance, which in pure state possesses infinite knowledge, vision, power, and bliss. The pure soul is a liberated soul. The worldly soul is covered by karma particles. The karma subdues the natural qualities of the soul. The qualities of the impure soul are as follows:

1.Limited Knowledge, Vision, Power, and Bliss

2.Possesses a body (plants, hellish, animal, human, or angel) 3.Wanders into the cycle of life and death

4.Suffers from birth, death, pain, and pleasure

The ultimate goal of human life is to remove all karma particles, which are attached to the soul. Then the soul will become pure and liberated.

Non-Living (Ajiva) Substances

Except soul, everything else in the entire universe is non-living substance. The non-living substances are classified into five categories.

Out of five categories, only matter substance possesses body, colour, and senses. Karma is one of the categories of matter. It is known as karmic matter (karma pudgala). Karma particles are of very fine matter not perceptible to the senses. The entire universe is filled with such karmic matter. Every living being is covered by karmic matter from their eternal existence. It is the karmic matter that keeps the soul away from realization of its true nature. It is due to karma one feels pleasure and pain, reincarnates in the different form of life, acquires certain types of physical body, and the duration of life.







Kaala or Samay

Medium of Motion


Medium of Rest


Asrava (Influx of karma)

Asrava is the cause, which leads to the influx of good and evil karma which lead to the bondage of the soul. Asrava may be described as attraction in the soul toward sense objects. The following are causes of Asrava or influx of good and evil karma:


Delusion or ignorance


Lack of self restraint


Unawareness of unmindfulness


Passions like anger, conceit, deceit, and lust


Activities of the mind, speech, and body

Bandha (Bondage of karma)

Bandha is the attachment of karmic matter (karma pudgala) to the soul. The soul has had this karmic matter bondage from eternity. This karmic body is known as the karmana body or causal body or karma. Karmic matter is a particular type of matter which is attracted to the soul because of soul’s delusion or ignorance, lack of self restraint, unmindfulness, passions, activities of body, mind, and speech. The soul, which is covered by karmic matter, continues acquiring new karma from the universe and exhausting old karma into the universe through the above mentioned actions at every moment. Because of this continual process of acquiring and exhausting karma particles, the soul has to pass through the cycles of births and deaths, and experiencing pleasure and pain. So under normal circumstances the soul cannot attain freedom from karma, and hence liberation. When karma attaches to the soul, its bondage to the soul is explained in the following four forms:

Prakruti bandha

Type of karma

Sthiti bandha

Duration of attachment of karma

Anubhava bandha

Intensity of attachment of karma

Pradesa bandha

Quantity of karma


Prakriti Bandha (type of karma)

When karmic matter attaches to the soul, it obscures soul’s essential nature of perfect knowledge, perfect vision, bliss, perfect power, eternal existence, non corporeal, and equanimity. The different types of karma obscure different quality or attributes of soul. This is known as Prakruti bandha.

Prakruti bandha is classified into eight categories, according to the particular attribute of the soul that it obscures. These eight categories of karma are grouped into two major categories, known as Ghazi karma, which subdues the qualities of the soul, and Agate karma, which relates to physical body of the living beings.

Ghati karma

Jnana varaniya karma

Covers the soul’s power of perfect knowledge.

Darasna varaniya karma

Covers the soul’s power of perfect visions.

Mohniya karma

Generates the delusion in the soul in regard to its own true nature. The soul identifies itself with other eternal substances and relationships.

Antaraya karma

Obstructs the natural quality or energy of the soul such as charity and will power. This prevents the soul from attaining liberation. It also prevents a living being from doing something good and enjoyable.

Aghati Karma

Vedniya karma

Obscures the blissful nature of the soul and thereby produces pleasure and pain.

Nama karma

Obscures the non-corporeal existence of the soul and provides the body with its limitations, qualities, facilities, etc.

Gotra karma

Obscures the soul’s characteristics of equanimity and determines the caste, family, social standing, and personality.

Ayu karma

Determines the span of life in one’s birth, thus obscuring the soul’s nature of eternal existence.


When a person destroys all of his ghati karmas, he attains keval jnana (absolute knowledge). At that time he is known as Arihant. However, he continues to live his human life until all his aghati karmas are destroyed. He attains liberation only after his death at that time all aghati karmas are destroyed.

Sthiti Bandha (Duration of attachment)

When karmic matter attaches to the soul it remains attached for certain duration before it produces the result. The duration of the attachment is determined according to the intensity or dullness of the soul’s passions or actions when the karma is being attached to the soul. After producing the result, karma will separate from the soul. Anubhava Bandha or Rasa Bandha (Intensity of attachment): What fruits the karmic matter will produce are determined at the time of attachment by varying degrees of soul’s passions.

Pradesa Bandha (Quantity of karma)

The intensity or dullness of the soul’s action determines the quantum of karmic matter that is drawn towards the soul for attachment.

Punya (Virtue)

The influx of karmic matter due to good activities of the mind, body, and speech with the potential of producing pleasant sensations is called punya or virtue. Activities such as offering food, drink, shelter, purifying thought, physical and mental happiness result in producing punya karma.

Paap (Sin)

The influx of karmic matter due to evil activities of the mind, body, and speech with the potential of producing unpleasant sensations is called papa or sin. Activities such as violence, untruth, theft, unchastely, attachment to objects, anger, conceit, deceit, lust result in producing papa karma.

Samvara (Stoppage of Karma)

The method that stops fresh karma from attaching into the soul is called samvara. This process is a reverse process of asrava. It can be accomplished by constant practice of:

Right belief Observance of vows




Peacefulness of vibratory activities

Nirjara (Exhaustion of the attached karma):

The attached karma exhausts themselves by producing their results when it is time for them to do so. At that time new karma attach to the soul. Unless the attached karma is exhausted before they start producing the results, it becomes difficult for the soul to be free. Therefore, it is necessary to exhaust all karmas before their maturity. This is done by rigorous austerities and penance. This process is called nirjara.

Moksha (Liberation)

Moksha is the liberation of the soul after complete exhaustion or elimination of all karmas. A liberated soul regains totally its original attributes of perfect knowledge, vision, power, and bliss. It climbs to the top of Lokas and remains their forever in its blissful and unconditional existence. It never returns again into the cycles of birth, life, and death. This state of the soul is the liberated or perfect state, and this is called “Nirvana.”


Buddhism is the philosophy of withdrawal from Samsara which is the source of all suffering. Some say that since Buddha held that all is misery he is a pessimist. It is not so. He, like all those who went before him, found that every one seeks to get rid of misery and which is of different degrees. All experiences even the apparent pleasurables turn out to be only momentary enjoyments leading to greater unhappiness. Practices of penance or tapasya or Brahmacharya or performances of rituals and yajnas are in fact irrational since they do not discover the cause of this misery. Buddha was the first thinker to affirm that misery can be got rid by natural means provided we can find out the natural cause. This natural cause he found was desire. He discovered or analysed the chain of causes and effects issuing from this primeval or beginningless desire which leads to misery through avidya. The whole body of ours is just a conglomerate (skandha) or grouping of desires (trishna) and it is perishable. According to Buddha the soul or ego is perishable even as the body. Thus Buddha discounted the existence of a

permanent soul or ego, though he affirmed the existence of a perpetual 418

stream of karma from one individual to another. The real avidya then is – not to know that all is suffering; not to know the cause of suffering; not to know that this suffering can be got rid of; and lastly not to know the path which leads to the cessation of suffering. Thus the central teaching of the Buddha, around which all his other teachings revolve, is the Four Noble Truths:

1.All beings, human and otherwise, are afflicted with all sorts of disappointments, sadness, discomfort, anxiety etc. In short they are subject to suffering.

2. The cause of this suffering is craving, born of the illusion of a ‘soul’

3. Suffering has a final end in the experience of Enlightenment (Nibbana) which is the complete letting go of the illusion of ‘soul’ and the consequent ending of craving and ill will.

4.This peaceful and blissful Enlightenment is achieved through a gradual training, a path called the Middle Way, or the Eightfold Path.

The way to the end of all suffering is called the Middle Way because it avoids the two extremes of sensual indulgence and self-mortification. Only when the body is in reasonable comfort but not overindulged, does the mind have the clarity and strength to meditate deeply and discover the truth. This Middle Way consists of the diligent cultivation of virtue, meditation and wisdom, which are explained in more detail as the Eightfold Path:

1. Right Understanding 2. Right Thought

3. Right Speech

4. Right Action

5. Right Livelihood

6. Right Effort

7. Right Mindfulness

8. Right Concentration (‘Right’ in the sense of being conducive to happiness and Enlightenment.)

Right Speech, Action and Livelihood constitute the training in virtue or morality.Forapractising lay Buddhist it consists of maintaining the five Buddhist precepts, which are to refrain from:

1. Deliberately causing the death of any living being;


2. Intentionally taking for one’s own the property of another;

3. Sexual misconduct, in particular adultery;

4. Lying and breaking promises;

5. Drinking alcohol and taking stupefying drugs which lead to a weakening of mindfulness and moral judgment.

Buddha laid emphasis on the Samadhi through Jnana (Dhyana). He emphasised the monk-life of homelessness. Buddhist is one who cultivates the highest states of consciousness through Samadhi that leads to Nirvana or the dissolution of the chain of causation, cycle of births, and the extinguishment of the ego (the will to live).

Buddha negated individual soul’s permanent existence. He did not speculate on the Ultimate Nature of Reality, which he negatively described as the Sunya or Nirvana, where there is total extinguishment of all change and process. Buddha thus is said to have taught the doctrine of un-atma or non-atman. He was also against the sacrificial means for getting out of misery. He did not accept the authoritativeness of the Veda. He also did not admit of anything permanent in this world. He however aimed at arriving at a state of non- change or nirvana which he saw is possible only through the annihilation of the ego, which he found to be just a conglomerate (skandha) of material elements which are bound by karma-avidya or trishna.

The value of Buddhism lies in the fact that it expresses a new meaning of dharma, contrasting it with karma. Dharma means the essential principle of motion or activity which reverses the karma-wheel, till all karma is extinguished and this is nirvana. Ethical life is the method of attainment of cessation of suffering both individual and collective. Dharma in the new sense comprising the eightfold path without the Vedic dharma became the most excellent truth of this system.

Right Understanding and Thought are the manifestations of Buddha-Wisdom which ends all suffering, transforms the personality and produces unshakeable serenity and tireless compassion. According to the Buddha, without perfecting the practice of virtue it is impossible to perfect meditation, and without perfecting meditation it is impossible to arrive at Enlightenment Wisdom.


Kamma means ‘action’. According to the law of karma there are inescapable results of our intentional actions. There are deeds of body, speech and mind that lead to one’s own harm, to others’ harm, or to the harm of both. Such


deeds are called bad or unwholesome kamma. They are motivated by craving, ill will or delusion, and because they bring painful results they should not be done. There are also deeds of body, speech and mind that lead to one’s own well-being, to the well-being of others, or to the well-being of both. Such deeds are called good or wholesome kamma. They are motivated by generosity, compassion or wisdom, and because they bring pleasant results they should be done as often as possible. The Buddha pointed out that no one, divine or otherwise, has the power to stop the consequences of good and bad kamma.


Karma and rebirth offer a plausible explanation to the obvious inequalities of birth – why some are born into great wealth whereas others are born into pathetic poverty; why some children enter this world healthy and full-limbed whereas others enter it deformed and diseased. A creator God is redundant in Buddha’s scheme.


The Buddha taught that there is no ‘soul’, no essential and permanent core to a living being. Instead, that which we call a ‘living being’, human or otherwise, can be seen to be but a temporary coming-together of many parts and activities – when complete it is called a ‘living being’, but when the parts have separated and the activities have ceased it is not called a ‘living being’ anymore.



Chapter XIII – Samskaras

The rites that pertain to the various stages of life of a man are called Samskaras. They are, in fact, purificatory rites which sanctify the life of the Hindu. They give a spiritual touch to the important events in the life of an individual from conception to cremation.

For the Hindu life is considered a sacred journey in which each milestone, marking a major biological and emotional change, is consecrated through a sacred ceremony. The word Samskara means a betterment of a thing. The cleansing process set in motion by the observance of Samskaras lead to the better of life and qualifies a person for spiritual upliftment. It is as if there is a deep rooted tendency in the heart the man to bring the chief events of his life in contact with a higher power. The variety of rites and rituals related to Samskaras help in the formation and development of personality. In the Parashara Smruti it is said, “Just as a picture is painted with various colours, so the character of a person is formed by undergoing various cascaras.” Thus, the Hindu sages realised the need for consciously guiding and moulding the character of individuals, instead of letting them grow in a haphazard manner.


Kalpa Sutras are exegetical texts of the Vedas. Among these texts are Srauta Sutras: Explain the rituals of sacrifices

Grihya Sutras:Explains rituals in domestic lives

Dharma Sutras:Deals with ethics, customs and laws

Grihya sutras designate the rules and customs for domestic life, including rites of passage and other home ceremonies, which are widely followed to this day.

Some important Grihya sutras are (1) Apasthamba (2) Aswalayan (3) Boudhayana (4) Bharadwaja (5) Gobhila (6) Hiranyakesia (7) Jaimineeya (8) Khadira (9) Manava (10) Paraskara (11) Sankhayana (12) Varaha.

They belong to different Vedas and Shakas and for this reason differ slightly in their contents.


Forty Samskaras

Forty Samskaras are prescribed in the scriptures. They are –

The forty Samskaras which are meant to purify the individual self consist of

the following:

a) Garbhadhana, pumsavana, simanta, jatakarma, namakarana, annaprasana, chooda karma, upanayana,

b) The four rites like prajapatya (Vedavratas) performed during gurukulavasa (the years the celibate student spends in the home of his guru),

c) Theritualbathoncompletionofgurukulavasa,

d) Marriage,

e) The five Mahayajnas performed everyday by the householder. (The pancha – mahayajnas are: brahmayajna, devayajna, pitrayajna, manusyayajna and bhutayajna. The chanting of the Vedas constitutes brahmayajna. Sacrifices and puja are devayajna. Tarpana is pitrayajna. Feeding guests is anusyayajna. And offering of bali to various creatures is bhutayajna.)

f) Seven pakayajnas (astaka (anvastaka), sthalipaka, parvana, sravani, agrahayani, caitri, asvayuji)

g) Seven haviryajnas (agniyadhana, agnihotra, darsa-purnamasa, agrayana, caturmasya, nirudhapasubandha, sautramani.)

h) Seven somayajnas to be conducted by the householder (agnistoma, atyagnistoma, uktya, sodasi, vajapeya, atiratra, aptoryama)

The ancient seers observed that – If we wish to get released from the cycle of birth and death, we will have to contend against various obstacles like our attachments,desires,ourfeelingsofhatred and fear. We will have to be disciplined and observe the rules related to our daily routine. If we can control our mind, subdue our passions and ego, then our feelings of anger, hatred, fear and sorrow will gradually wither away. The Samskaras and Atmagunas are interconnected. They will help us reach our goal of release from Samsara.

Prominent Samskaras

Among the Samskaras listed above some are prominent. They are sixteen in number. They are given below.









Garbhadana sacrifices the creative act. The husband repeats Mantras during

Ritu-Santi ceremony. The new child is conceived amidst the vibrations of Mantras.




Performed in the 3rd month of pregnancy with Mantras. The food sheath and vital sheath of the child is formed.




Performed on the 6th or 8th month of pregnancy with Mantras. This protects the mother from evil influences and bestows health on the child. Recitation of Mantras and performance of the ceremony help in shaping the body of the child.


At birth


Performed immediately after the birth of the child. The father welcomes the new born child. He prays for its long life, intelligence and well being.


Naming ceremony


Usually performed on the 11th day. There is a practice in choosing the name for the child, based on the Nakshatra or asterism under which the child is born. One of the many names of Lord is commonly chosen.


3rd month


In the third month the child is allowed viewing of the fire and moon. In the fourth month he is taken out of the house for the first time to a mandir for a viewing of the Lord. The child is also exposed to the Sun.


6th month


Performed on the 6th month. The child is given solid food for the first time. Mantras are recited and oblations offered to various deities.


1st or 3rd year

Chooda Karma

The tonsure or shaving of the head. During ancient times, they used to have “sikha” which was considered essential while conducting rites. It was worn in the ceremony with the chanting of Mantras. Vows are made to Parameshvara during the ceremony.


1st or 3rd year


The Karnavedha or year boring ceremony is also performed with Chooda Karma.


5th as per Manu & 8th


The most important ceremony that marks the beginning of the next stage in life- youth. It is his


year as per


second or spiritual birth. Upanayana means bringing near – the boy is brought near to his spiritual teacher – Guru. The Guru invests him with the sacred thread, Yagnopavita, and initiates him by giving him the Gayatri Mantra. It is the start of the Brahmacharya ashram. This initiation makes him, Dwija, the twice born. The boy begins the life of study. He studies Veda vidya. It would take, normally 12 to 16 years to complete the learning of one Veda along with its angas. Refer below where the significance of the sacred thread is explained.


End of student stage


Having completed the Vedic studies and the Vratas, the student presents an appropriate gift to his Guru. He then seeks a permission to take a formal bath signifying the end of studentship. He then returns home and performs the Samavarthana or returning ceremony.. He is now ready to enter the next stage in life – Marriage


Marriage ceremony


This marks the entry into the second ashrama. He begins his life as a house holder


Married life

Grahastya ashrama

He pays his spiritual debts by sacrifice, by study. He procreates children.


Renouncing the house holder’s life

Vanaprasta ashrama

Man withdraws himself from all worldly activities. He prepares himself for taking Sanyasa.


Renouncing the world

Sanyasa ashrama

Renounces the world and leads a life of study and meditation.


Funeral rites


The man dies. His funeral rites are performed by his son and heir.


Significance of sacred thread and other symbols

The sacred thread or Yagnopavita consists of three threads knotted together. The significance is that he who wears it should have control over his mind, speech and body (thought, word and deed). The holy thread itself signifies various triads, viz, Sat, Chit, Ananda; Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva; etc.


Pancha Maha Yagnas

Every house holder is expected to perform five great sacrifices every day. They are –

Brahma Yajna: This is a sacrifice to Brahman or the Vedas or the sages.

Deva Yajna: This is a sacrifice to the celestials.

Pithru Yajna: These are sacrifices to one’s ancestors discharged through the offering of Pindas during oblations

Manushya Yajna: The Athithi satkaram or feeding one’s guests with respect. Signifies one’s debts to the community

Bhoota Yajna: This Samskara consists of feeding the living entities (considered as extended human family) other than human beings.


Apart from Samskaras, Atma Gunas help remove the ills caused by the sensory attachments. For this, we have to cultivate eight Atma Gunas. The Samskaras and Atma Gunas are interconnected. The list of Atma Gunas is given below:


Atma Guna




Implies love for all creatures. Such love is the very fulfilment of life. There is no greater happiness than that derived by loving others. Daya is the backbone of all qualities.



It means patience. One kind of Ksanti is to patiently suffer disease, poverty, misfortune etc. The second is forgiveness. This implies loving a person even when he causes pain and suffering to you.



Anasuya is Sage Atri’s wife. She was utterly free from any kind of jealousy. It is for this reason she is called as Anasuya.



Saucha derives its name from Suchi. And Suchi means cleanliness. Cleanliness here refers to purity to be maintained in all matters – personal cleanliness, food, dress etc



Anayasa is the opposite of Ayasa – which refers to effort, exertion etc. Anayasa means to have a feeling of lightness, to take things easy and never to lose your temper.



Indicates the need to keep an air of auspiciousness, dignity and purity. This by itself radiates a glow of happiness.



Miserliness is the quality of a Krpana. Akarpanya is the


opposite of miserliness. One must be generous



Sprha means desire. Asprha is the opposite of it – that is being without desire. Desire has been the root cause for all troubles over the ages. It has, time and again, led to a complete destruction of the person. Endless performance of rites and continuous meditation eventually will lead a person to get over desires.

Ashrama Dharmas

Human beings have the ability for discrimination and judgement. And this makes them unique among all the created beings. For an orderly development of this ability the scriptures have prescribed a number of Samskaras. A careful following of these Samskaras leads one to attain the Purusharthas – goals in life.

Ashrama Dharma divides man’s life into four stages – Brahmacharya, Grhastha, Vanaprastha and Sanyasa. Among these four Grhastha ashrama is the most important one. The other three ashrams depend on it. Under the shelter of a mother all creatures grow. Similarly, Grhasthashrama provides a shelter for the other three ashrams.

Brahmachari Grhasthascha Vaanaprasthastathaa yatiheh Yetae grhastha

Vivaha Samskara

A man and woman enter the Grhastha Ashrama through marriage. Together they face a number of challenges and perform a number of duties. They raise their children, educate them and train them to be model citizens. When this is done the objective of marriage becomes successful.

On the occasion of a marriage friends and relatives gather for the function. They offer prayers for the prosperity of the family. Elders bless the youngsters. This procedure offers for the spiritual and social advancement of individuals.

The bondage of marriage holds the society together. Society cannot be regarded as composed of individuals. The true social unit is the family. It is essentially on the plan of the family that the society is constructed. In a family the social and personal instincts are blended and reconciled. To attack the institution of the family is an alarming symptom of social disorganisation.

Vivaaha, Parinaya, Kalyana, Panigrhana, Udvahana are Sanskrit words for marriage.


All the rituals carried out during the marriage ceremony have some meaning. Youngman looking to get married must be careful and alert. The same caution needs to be exercised by the parents of the girl. Marriages between two people having similar status in terms of looks, age and education, generally, lead to happy a married life. The rituals and procedures followed by people during a marriage vary from region to region based on family backgrounds.

Typical traditional steps, followed in the south of India are being described.

The steps are – (1) Arrival of the bridegroom (2) Honouring the bridegroom (3) Maha Sankalpa (4) Kanya dana (5) Madhuparka (6) Tieing the Mangal sutra (7) Talambralu (8) Kankana Dharana (9) Brahma mudi (10) Pradhana Homa (11) Pani grhana (12) Sapta padi (13) Arundhati Darshana (14) Pledges between the bride and the groom (15) Asheervad

Arrival of the bridegroom and honouring him

A day before the auspicious time for the marriage the bridegroom arrives along with his friends and relatives and reaches the place organised by the Kanya data. The bridegroom is honoured. Discussions related to the family connections and Gotra take place.

Maha Sankalpa

This is an important step. During this time discussions take place mainly as to who is doing the Kanya dana (giving away in marriage), to whom it is being done and where it is being done.

Kanya dana

The bridegroom is symbolically viewed as Lord Lakshmi Narayana. The father of the bride, Kanya data, then washes the feet of the bridegroom. During this occasion the Kanya data says –

Kanyam kanaka sampannam Kanaka abharanairvrtaam Daasyaami Vishnave’ tubhyam Brahma loka jigeeshaya

“ With a view to attain Brahma loka, considering you to be equivalent to Lord Vishnu, I give the hand of my daughter who is wearing all the precious gold ornaments”. Also during the marriage the bride vows “ I will never leave you under any circumstances ofDharma,ArthaandKama”.Thebridegroomalsopledges that he too will never desert her. “ Dharmecha, arthecha, kaamecha naati charaami, naati charitavya”



During the marriage the bridegroom is offered “Madhuparka”. In a small vessel honey and yoghurt are mixed and offered. The vessel is tied with threads. It is symbolic of a great honour.

At an auspicious time, a small screen that separates the bride and the groom will be moved away and bridegroom will view the bride. This is called “Sameekshana”. The bridegroomthenplaces Cumin (Jeera) and Jaggery on the head of the bride. Mantras are chanted at the time. The same ritual is performed by the bride as well. It is believed that the ritual will assist in increasing the affection between the couple many folds. Then the bridegroom ties a rope made out of sacred grass (darbha) around the waist of the bride. This ritual is called “Yoktra Dharana”. This ritual enables the bride to accept the responsibilities for conducting the Yagna called life.

Tying of the Mangala sutra

Tying of the Mangala sutra is the most important event in the marriage Samskara. Since it is considered as the key to all auspicious events, it is called Mangala sutra. The bridegroom invokes Goddess Lakshmi during the event and seeks Her blessings. All the elders, witnessing the marriage, touch the Mangala sutra and bless the couple. The bridegroom ties the Mangala sutra around the neck of the bride with three knots. The three knots represent the three deities – the Lords Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. The welfare of the couple and the long term union is assured by the Mangala sutra and the three knots on it.

The tying of the Mangala sutra is conducted in front of a fire ceremony. Agni, the God of fire bears the witness. The following Mantra is uttered by the bridegroom during the ceremony.

Maangalyam tantu naanena Mama jeevana hetunaa

Kante’ bandhaami subhage’ Twam jeeva sharadaam shatam

Meaning “ I am tying this Mangala sutra, the cause for my living, around your neck. May you live a complete one hundred years”. The Mangala sutra is regarded as very auspicious.



It is also referred to as “ Akshata aaropanam”. During this ceremony a number of mantras are recited by traditional people. They all wish the couple – auspicious events to occur, for the progeny to increase, for prosperity and for them to lead a harmonious life.


This signifies the Rakshabandan. It is tied to the right hand of the bridegroom and to the left hand of bride. They are retained for three days and removed on the fourth day.

Brahma mudi

The word Mudi refers to a knot. The end of the bride’s sari is tied to the “Uttareeya” (upper garment) of the bridegroom. This is called the Brahma mudi. This is said to signify the closeness and affection of the couple. During this ceremony, prayers are offered to Gods like Varuna to grant the couple stability and courage.

Principal Homa ceremony

The first Homa (ritual by fire) that the newlywed couple perform is called “Pradhaana Homa”. This will mark the beginning of the many Homas they would be performing over the coming years. This is called the Pradhaana Homa. The mantras that the bridegroom would be uttering are aimed at the growth and well being of their children.

While performing the Homa, the bridegroom will be invoking a number of Gods and adding Dravyas to the fire. It is believed that Lord Agni acts as the face of all Gods.


During the marriage ceremony, the bridegroom will hold the five fingers of bride’s right hand. This is called Panigrahana. The bridegroom also pronounces “ during this auspicious occasion I am holding your hand. Due to the grace of the Lord, may we lead a long life and have worthy children”. Mantras praying for the health, wealth and Jnana are uttered. Such rituals bring to focus the auspiciousness of the occasion and the binding brought about by the marriage. While giving away Sita in marriage to Lord Rama, King Janaka says –

Iyam Sita mama suta

Saha dharmachari tava Prateecha chainam bhadram te’ Panim grshnishwa paaneena.

“ Sita is my daughter. She is now your Saha dharma chaarinee. Please accept her. May auspiciousness befall on you” – is the meaning for this Shloka. This indicates that rituals such as these are being followed in India for thousands of years.


Sapta padhi

Couples, who got married taking oaths in front of a Homa, take seven steps around the fire. This is called Sapta Padhi. A lot of importance is attached to this ritual. It is believed that even acquaintances who take seven steps together end up as close friends- “Sakyam Saaptapadeenam”.

The mantras uttered during the ritual reveal that each step that the couple take during this ritual has significance.

Arundhathi Darshana

After the marriage ceremony has been completed, the couple are taken out and asked to view the stars – Dhruva and Arundhati. The significance is that the couple conduct themselves like the legendary Dhruva for steadfastness and Arundhati for fidelity

Pledges between the Bride and the Groom

The couple take a number of vows during the marriage. They are in the form of Sanskrit mantras.

Examples of vows from the bridegroom would look like this “May God Agni, bless you to develop an affection for the house you are entering. It is due to the grace of Lord Brahma that we have now become husband and wife. May HE bless us with long life. Similarly, the vows taken by the bride would look like this “ You have taken my heart and I am married to you. I accept you as a person having a lot of samskara. Together we pray for a great progeny. May Lord Brahma bless us that we will always live with a great affection for each other. May Goddess Saraswathy bless us that we always communicate with each other with a lot of affection.


After that all the elders attending the marriage bless the couple. The blessings of elders do not go a waste.

Friends and relatives present the couple with items that would be useful in their day to day life. However, the Shastras do not mention or permit for dowries to be given on the occasion


The tilak that the bride and bridegroom wear during marriage ceremony are signs of auspiciousness. Exchange of beetle leaves is done on all auspicious occasions. New cloths are worn during the marriage ceremony. The bride is well decorated and looks the most important person on the occasion.



Chapter XIV – Seers of Kaliyuga

As we all know, according to Hindu cosmology there are four Yugas – Krita (Satya), Tretaa, Dwaapara and Kali. In the Krita Yuga, people had lot of mental strength (manobala) and hence the worship was done mentally. In the Tretaa Yuga, mental strength reduced and worship was done through the performance of sacrifices. In the Dwaapara Yuga, pujas etc started and God was worshipped in people’s houses. In the present Kali Yuga, Bhakti is the only means to realize God. The lives and teachings of a number of spiritual leaders and Acharyas of this age aimed at making people understand Bhakti as the only means to liberation. To name a few well known saints – Alwars (from South India), Sri Shankaracharya, Sri Ramanujacharya, Sri Madhvacharya, Sri Vallabhacharya, Sri Krishna Caitanya, Meera Bai, Sri NamDev, Tulasidas, Tukaram, Sri Annamacharya, Sri Tyagaraja, 63 Nayanar saints from south India. It is the support of their lives that gave them more authority to their teachings than the philosophical writings of mere arm-chair philosophers and critics. Some of the miracles and extraordinary incidents attributed to them have been criticized to be projections of the pious imaginations of their followers. If nothing else it is, perhaps, the way of the Indian mind to convey the idea that these saints are endowed with extraordinary divine powers. But for this extraordinary power in them, their teachings could not have survived so many centuries influencing the lives and thoughts of innumerable generations of people.

Before we proceed, one has to understand what Bhakti is and what it is not. It certainly is not a noisy session. It is also not a session where special poojas are promised provided certain desires are fulfilled. It is a firm, ceaseless and unshakable love of God, which surpasses every other form of affection and attachment, and which is based on and inspired by a full knowledge of His transcendent majesty. This is the only method by which one can attain Moksha or liberation. Prapatti (Sharanagati – absolute surrender to the Supreme Self) is considered to be even superior to Bhakti. It calls for an unshakeable faith in God and His saving grace. All actions by way of body, words, mind, senses, Buddhi, and the self – are all dedicated to the Supreme Being- Paramatma.

The lives and teachings of these saints of Kaliyuga aimed at the knowledge of God as the means to liberation. Such knowledge is called Vidya and the others as Avidya for it is not liberating knowledge – though not ignorance. Sri Narada expressed that even ekaayana did not help him to realize Brahman or the liberating knowledge (Chandogya Upanishad).It just means that a mechanical knowledge, conceding that


it is thorough, of the know-how of the Agamas will not help in realizing God. The key is that a deep insight into the love of God alone can lead to liberation.

The seers of the Kaliyuga were great experimenters in the spiritual life and adopted all modes of approach to the Divine Lord. God is, for them, pre-eminently the father, the mother, the friend, the husband or the Master. It is one of the greatest discoveries of the current seers (as different from the seers of the Vedic age) to show that a relation-less reality is a non-entity and is not an object of experience. It is a fully articulated relational reality that is the substance of experience.

The Yoga of Bhakti or devotion is a lot easier than the Jnana Yoga or philosophical meditations. In Bhakti Yoga, the devotee develops a very close relationship with the Lord. Gradually, he cultivates any one of the six Bhavas according to his nature. The six bhavas are –


Santa Daasya Sakya Kanta Madhurya Bhava Bhava Vaatsaly Bhava Bhava

The bhavas differ both in type and intensity. In the figure shown above the bhavas are arranged in the order of increasing intensity from left to right.

Santa bhava: Dhruva and Prahlada felt that God is their father. This is Santa bhava. Daasyabhava:The devotee behaves like a servant. The roles played by Sri

Hanuman and Adi Sesha towards the Lord are ideal examples.

Sakya bhava: In this case there is a sense of equality as between two friends.

Arjuna’s relationship with Sri Krishna is an excellent example.

Vaatsalya bhava: The devotee treats the Lord as his / her child. Yashoda and

Kaushalya had this bhava.

Kanta bhava: This is the love of a wife towards her husband. Sita and Rukmani

displayed this bhava.

Madhurya bhava: In this case the lover and beloved become one through the intensity of love. This also results in the most intense feeling of God love. Thinking, praising and singing the devotees are totally lost to the world. In the Bhaagavata Purana Lord Vishnu says “I, to whom devotees are dear, am like a slave without any freedom. My heart is in the grip of such devotees”.



Among the great seers of the present age we have selected the Alwars of South India for discussion. This is because the individual contributions of the great saints be it from the north or south of India, cannot be really distinguished. The Tevaram and the Tiruvaachakam which are the hymns of the Saiva saints of south India, the Divya Prabandham of the Alwar saints of south India, the songs of Kabir and Meerabai, the Abhangas of Tukaram and the Ramayana of Tulsidas – all of which are the outpourings of great realised souls – are wonderful scriptures. They contain the essence of the Vedas.

We are in the presence of mystics whose consciousness does not work in compartments. Evidently, deep mystics as all of them really are, they have revealed a new experience to the world consciousness – similar to the Vedic seers who saw all deities in one.

The Alwars composed approximately 4000 Tamil verses. In the 9th – 10th century, the philosopher saint Nathamuni took extraordinary steps to recover these verses. Saint Nathamuni arranged them as the Divya Prabandham (Divine collection), set many of them to music and rejuvenated the tradition of formally reciting them in temples

All the Alwars uniformly held that love of God is an end in itself. For them even Moksha is an inferior goal to the love of God. It is not merely the Anubhava or experience of the Divine nature in all its transcendence that was sought but the unconditional opportunity of service to the Divine Himself was prayed for. The knowledge of Him is blissful but the service to Him is even more blissful. This absolute and unconditional Bhakti is unattainable except to those who have accepted God as the saviour and end. One in a few millions might have reached this stage.

Alwars are said to have been the translators of the Veda – especially Nammaalvar and Alwar Sathakopa. It does not mean that a word to word translation has been made. On the contrary, the Tamil hymns breath the same spiritual atmosphere of the Vedic literature that sing the glories of one Supreme Being. The Alwars are Vaishnavaite seers, and are usually counted as twelve. They are mystics par excellence and their verses are an outpour of their mystic experiences. 4000 of their verses are collectively called Naalaayira Divya Prabandham. The Alwars belong to different periods. They came from a wide cross section of the society – brahmana, shudra and panchama. However, it is traditionally regarded that all the Alwars were special amshas of Lord Narayana.

Alwar is a tamil expression meaning – one who rules, who has mastery over others and command them. The Alwars teachings are like commands for the laymen. In a


way they commanded the Lord also by their devotion. They worshipped Lord Vishnu both as immanent in the universe and as transcendent beyond it. He appeared to them both as formless (Nirguna) and with form (Saguna). They believed that for the benefit of mankind the Supreme being, Sriman Narayana, assumed forms – (1) in Sri Vaikuntam with divine attributes as Paravasudeva (2) He appeared in the Vyuha form in the milky ocean for the purposes of creation (3) on the earth as Sri Rama and Sri Krishna and other avataras (4) He dwells permanently in the hearts of yogins as Antaryamin (5) In the images in temples erected for the Lord (archa form). According to them the one God Sriman Narayana appears in two spheres – one in the transcendent, which is called Nitya Vibhuti and the other in the material Universe which they called as Lila Vibhuti. They saw Him everywhere and in everything. They realized the presence of God in idols and sang in their praise with ecstatic joy and enthusiasm.

For the Alwars the knowledge of God was not a mere intellectual perception but one of direct Anubhava. Some worshipped Him as their father, some as beloved, some as their friend and companion and others as their master. For them the Supreme Self is not formless and attributes-less. On the contrary, He is full of divine attributes and not a Nirguna Brahma.

First Three Alwars (Mudhal Alwars)

Poigaialwar, Boodatalwar and Peyaiaalwar are collectively called as Mudhal Alwars or the first Alwars. They lived during the same period.


Tradition tells us that the first of them, Poigaialwar, was born at Kanchipuram, under the star Sravanam (thiruvonam) in the month of October – November (Aippasi). The period is reported to be the 7th C AD. The Aippasi month is the month of Deepavali. The saint who lit the earliest lamps on Vaishnavism was born during the month when the festival of lamps is celebrated!

The city of Kanchipuram has two sections – Vishnu Kanchi is full of Sri Vishnu temples and Shiva Kanchi has a number of Sri Shiva temples. Yadhothakaari temple is located in Vishnu Kanchi. Near to the temple is a poigai (meaning a small pond in Tamil). Tradition tells us that Poigaialwar was born in this poigai and hence his name. It is, generally regarded, that the saint was born under the amsha of Panchajanya – the conch that Lord Vishnu bears.



The saint was born at Mahabalipuram, near Chennai. In early times this Kshetram was known as Kadal Mallai Kshetram. The saint was born under the star Dhanishta (Avittam) and in the month of October – November (Aippasi). The period once again was the 7th C AD. Mahabalipuram is named after the great Rakshasa King Maha Bali who ruled this region and eventually surrendered his head to Lord Narayana born in the form of Vamana. It is, generally believed; that the saint was born under the amsha of Kaumodakee – the mace that Lord Vishnu bears.


The saint was born at Thiru Myilai (it is now called Mylapore), in the city of Chennai. The saint was born under the star of Shatabhishak (Sadayam) and in the month of October – November (Aippasi). The period once again was the 7th C AD. Sri Aadhi Kesava Perumal temple is one of the famous temples found in Mylapore. It has a small pond with beautiful water lilies. Peyaiaalwar was born in one of the Alli flowers in the pond. He is believed to be born under the amsha of Nandaka, the sword that Lord Vishnu sports. Among the seers born in the south of India the Alwars are highly venerated. Inevitably, a number of miracles are associated with their lives. As told by Lord Vishnu “I, to whom devotees are dear, am like a slave without any freedom. My heart is in the grip of such devotees”. Whatever the devotee desires or even commands will be attended to!! No wonder that incidents that we commonly consider impossible will occur.

One stormy night the three saints arrived, one after another, to take shelter at a way side house in a small village Tirukkovalur. The owner of the house let them in, saying that there is enough room in the dehali – if they do not mind standing. They started exchanging the religious experiences gathered by each of them. Soon they experienced that the dehali was getting more and more cramped. One of the saints lit a lamp with his yogic powers. They could not see any cause for the feeling. They then inferred that the object cramping them may, perhaps, not be visible for human eyes. They decided that a light which could dispel their ignorance or Ajnana may be needed. That was done. They could then see Lord Vishnu. Spontaneously they started elaborating the glory of the Lord who revealed Himself to them. By their Tamil verses they restated the truths of the Upanishads. The Divya Prabandam was born.

Tirukkovalur, the place where the incident took place and the Divya Prabandam first came into being is held in great veneration even out of the 108 Divya Deshas. The great Vaishnava Acharya Vedanta Desika composed a Shloka titled Dehaleesa Stuti.


Thirumazhisai Alwar

This Alwar was born in a place called Tirumazhisai, a small village to the west of Chennai. He was born under the star Makham in the month of Thai. It is also believed that he was born under the amsha of Sudharsana – the discus that Lord Vishnu sports. He was also called by the name Bhaktisara in recognition of the intense Bhakti and devotion he displayed.

It is reported that God has reacted to his devotion in a strange manner. While at Kumbakonam, worshipping in the shrine of Lord Sarangapani, he questioned the Lord the reason for his resting position and asked Him to get up and answer. In response to this, it is said, that the Lord attempted to rise from His serpent (Adisesha) couch. Bhaktisara, moved by this graciousness on the part of the Lord, sang with great ecstasy. The Lord stayed as He was at that moment. To this day, the moorthy of the Lord is seen as Uttanasayee (one lying down with head raised).

He has sung two poems or Divya Prabhandas – one called Naanmugan Tiruvandadi and the other called Tiruchchanda Viruttam. Naanmugan Tiruvandadi consists of 96 Pasurams, while Tiruchchanda Viruttam has 120 Pasurams.

The main theme of Naanmugan Tiruvandadi is the supremacy of Lord Narayana in relation to all other Gods. It is said of him that he has studied each of the other schisms or schools of thought and practiced each of them first hand before realizing that the highest truth is enshrined in the Sri Vaishnava Siddhanta. He had the help and guidance of Peyaiaalwar and for that reason said to be his guru.

His second work, Tiruchchanda Viruttam, is a rhythmical form of verse. It blossoms into a superb mystic poetry praising Lord Narayana.


He was born under the same constellation as Buddha – Vaikasi Poornima, full moon in the month of Vaikasi (Baisak). He was born in a clan “Vellalar tribe” at a place called Thiru Kurugoor; near Tirunelveli (the place is also called Alwar Tirunagari). The period is reported to be 880- 930 AD. It is believed that he was born under the amsha of Sri Vishwak Sena. He was also known by the names – Maran, Saint Satokopa. He is considered to be pre-eminent among the Alwars. Through his life and writings he appears to personify Krishna trishna tattva – the embodiment of the feeling of thirst for Sri Krishna.

As a baby he was extraordinary. He exhibited none of the symptoms of an ordinary child. He was born a saint – for, as his name indicates, he had conquered even at birth the sata vayu which envelops the soul, as it is being ushered into this world, in


ignorance. It is said that the child did not cry, eat or drink. His food was God, his breath was God, his enjoyment was God and his mind was God. Thus he verified the experience of Taittiriya (III, Bhruguvalli) and showed that it was not a mere inductive generalization of the ordinary mind that was being taught therein – but the real truth of the higher consciousness of God being the food by which one should attempt to grow into the divine nature and gain the freedom of the highest life.

Annam Brahmeti vyajaanaath. Annaddhhyeva khalvimaani bhutaani jaayante. Annene jaataani jivanti annam prayamtabhisam vshamteeti. Tadvijnaya. punareva pitara mupasasaara. adhihi bhagavo brahmeti. tagam hovaacha tapasaa brahma vijijnasasva. tapo brahmeti. sa tapo tapyata. sa tapastatva.

Taittiriya Upanishad (III Bhruguvalli – anuvaka 2)

Bhrigu understood that food is Brahman – for all beings in this world are born from food; having been born, they remain alive by food; and on departing, they enter into food. Having thus reflected on the true nature of food he approached his father Varuna saying, “Revered Sir, instruct me about Brahman”. The father then said to him “Seek to know Brahman through austerity; austerity is Brahman”

As in the case of Buddha, the dominant feeling with Saint Satakopa was one of compassion, pity and sympathy towards all men and women driven to sin and suffering. While Buddha was driven away from Samsara by his sorrow, the Alwar’s sorrow drove him to God. He cries in agony to the Lord to release his fellow beings’ false knowledge and impure conduct.

It is said that a contemporary Alwar, Madhurakavi, while on a pilgrimage to the north observed a glowing light as a star on the southern sky. Intrigued by it, he followed it all the way from Banaras to Thiru Kurugoor (in Tirunelveli district in the south India). There he saw Saint Nammalvar seated blissfully under a tamarind tree. This meeting between the two, resulted in Nammalvar coming out of Samadhi which began at the time of his birth. Nammalvar then wrote 1,296 Tamil verses which set the standard in devotional lyric poetry. He wrote four Prabandhas – Tiruvirutham, Tiruvasiriyam, Peria Tiruvanthadhi and Tiruvaoimozhi. The intensity of God love of the Alwar is clearly seen in all his four works. It is not mere emotion divorced from intellect. Rather, it is truly emotion born out of Jnana. Mere Jnana eventually leads to dissection of God and God concepts and will be of little or no help to the pursuer. Similarly, mere faith and fervour border on sensuousness and sentimentalism leading the pursuer nowhere. A blend of Jnana and Bhakti is most beneficial to the human soul. While knowledge is apt to divide God, love will unite. The Alwars, especially Nammalvar, are said to be the translators of the Vedas into Tamil. This is not to be taken that the Vedic hymns have been translated word for word. On the contrary the Tamil hymns breath the same spiritual atmosphere of the of the Vedic


literature and sing the glories of one Supreme Being in His manifold personalities – sarvaih vedaih aham eva vedyah.

Madhurakavi Alwar

Madhurakavi (meaning sweet tongued poet) was born at Tirukkoloor situated, on the banks of river Tamraparni, a couple miles to the east of Alwar Tirunagari. By caste he was a Brahmin. He was the disciple of the great Nammalvar. He was born under the star Chitra in the Tamil month of Chitrai (April – May). It is significant to note that among all the Alwars, Madhurakavi was the only who has not sung verses in praise of the Lord! Instead, he sung in praise of the Lord’s premier devotee Nammalvar. He declares that he knows of no God other than his Guru, Nammalvar!

The catholicity of the outlook of the vaishnavaites in spiritual matters is highlighted by the Guru – Shishya bhava (teacher- student relationship) between Nammalvar and Madhurakavi. The Guru and the Shishya were born in different castes. The disciple was much older than the Acharya who was a teenager at that time.

Madhurakavi was a great scholar having studied the Vedas and Shastras. He went on a pilgrimage to the North India and while there he got the vision of a bright light emanating from the south. Intrigued, he followed it for many days. Eventually, the bright light disappeared when he reached Alwar Tirunagari. On enquiry he heard of a young saint seated in Samadhi, from the time of his birth, under a tamarind tree. He rushed to the spot and found the young saint Satakopa in deep meditation. He prostrated before the great saint and tried to develop a conversation. But the saint never replied to him. Madhurakavi then posed a puzzling question hoping the young saint might consent to clarify his doubt. He did. It is interesting to note the question and the reply.

Q: If a small one is born out of Chit (consciousness) what will it eat and where will it stay?

A: It will eat it and lie in it.

The answer could be interpreted in two different ways – depending on the meaning

given to the word Chit.

1.If Chit is taken to be referring to Parama Chetana or God, the small one refers to the individual soul- then the individual soul will live, move and have its being in God.

2.If Chit is taken to be referring to the individual soul and the small one to the body to which it is attached, being born in it – then the individual soul will enjoy the pleasures and pains of the body and have its existence in the body.


Madhurakavi recognized that he is in the presence of a great saint and spent the rest of his life as Nammalvar’s disciple. When Nammalvar began to pour out his verses, Madhurakavi took it down and preserved it for posterity.

Madhurakavi wrote eleven verses wherein he highlighted the importance and potency of Acharya Bhakti.

Kulasekhara Alwar

Nidhi chala sukhamaa Sannidhi chala sukhama

Which one would you rather have – the riches of this world or the opportunity to be in the presence of the Lord and serve Him? The great saint Thyagaraja posed this question. Almost 1000 years earlier another saint had his answer ready – Saint Kulasekhara Alwar. He cries out “I do not desire the pleasures or riches of a king, seated on the neck of a state elephant. He alone is the king who fervently wears on his head the feet of Sri Rama.”

Kulasekhara Alwar was a Kshatriya by birth. He was a ruler of the Chera kingdom, part of present Kerala. He was reported to being the ruler in the 9th century. He was born under the star, Punarpoosa in the month of Maasi. He proved to be a great ruler and expanded his empire defeating the neighbouring Chola and Pandiya kings. He was a mighty warrior.

At the same time he was a great Bhakta as well. In addition, he was a Sanskrit scholar and well versed in Sanskrit literature including the Vedas. There are two works, one in Sanskrit and the other in Tamil ascribed to this king. The Sanskrit work is the well known Mukunda Mala. The Tamil work is Perumal Tirumozhi which consists of 105 Pasurams and forms part of the 4000 Divya Prabandhas.

It is said that the devotion of this king towards God extended to the Lord’s devotees also. Sri Rama, Sri Krishna and Sri Ranganatha among the archas (idols in the temples) exercised great fascination over the mind of Kulasekhara alwar. Vithuvakkodu is a shrine near Pattambi in Malabar and is on the road from Shoranur to Guruvayur. To the Lord at Vithuvakkodu Kulasekhara alwar says –

“ Even if you spurn me, I have no one else to look up to; like a child put aside by its mother in anger, like a true wife ill treated by her husband, like a citizen looking up to king though he is a despot, like a lotus which unfolds itself only to the burning rays of the Sun; and like crops that always look up to the clouds that never come, I look up to you and rely on you and you alone, even though you do not want me”.


Periyalwar (Vishnu-Chitta)

Periyalwar was born at Srivilliputtur, now in Ramanathapuram district. He was a Brahmin. He was born in the month of Aani under the star Swathi.

When you close your ears lightly you hear a peculiar noise. Periyalwar says that it is due to the sound of waves from the milky ocean in his heart where his Lord Narayana and consort Lakshmi are reclining. No wonder he was named Vishnu Chitta. He cultivated an excellent flower garden at his house. He took a great interest in making flower garlands and offering them to the presiding deity at Srivilliputtur – Lord Vata-patra Sayee. One night he dreamt of Lord Narayana instructing him to go to the court of the king of Madurai and participate in a debate. Vishnu Chitta was not a scholar or well versed in Vedas. However, he went to the king’s court and participated in the debate. The debate was to decide on who was the Supreme Being to whom the whole world owes allegiance. When his turn to speak came, even to his surprise, he launched into a great discourse on the superiority of Lord Narayana, Srivaishnava siddhanta supporting his statements with quotations from the scriptures! So spontaneously did he see the mantras without being taught or having undergone the course of recitals (adhyayana), it was considered to be an evidence of God’s knowledge-granting grace.

It is told that the king of Madurai honoured the saint and arranged for a procession through the streets seated on an elephant. However, our saint’s mind was fully occupied with Lord Narayana and the extraordinary grace He has shown. Suddenly he could see his Lord and with that the saint bursts out into a song praying for, or rather blessing Him with long life and all prosperity!

“Pallandu Pallandu Pallayirathaandu, Palakoti noorayiram”

many many years, many many thousand years ..the beauty of your feet be protected unhurt. The alwar exhibited parental love towards God – Vaatsalya bhava. In Srivaishnava parlance when a superior or older person utters words calling for the welfare inferior or a younger person it is called Asheervadam (blessing). However, when an inferior or younger person utters words calling for the welfare of a superior or older person it is called Mangalasasasam.

Two of the alwar’s major works are – Thiru Pallandu (so called due to its opening words), Periya Azhwar thirumozhi. Every recitation of the 4000 Divya Prabandhas in temples or houses is done only after the recitation of the Thiru Pallandu.


Goda Devi (Andal)

Goda Devi (Andal in Tamil) is the only female among the Alwars revered in south India. She was born at Srivilliputtur in the month of Ashada, under the star Puram. The period is reported to be 8th century AD. It is believed that saint Periyalwar found her as a baby under a Tulasi plant. He took her home and brought her as his daughter. It is believed that she is born under the amsha of Bhoo-Devi.

From early childhood she was in love with Lord Vishnu. It is said that Goda Devi used to wear the garlands and flowers which her father devoutly made for the Lord of Srivilliputtur. The father when he came to know about it was greatly distressed and felt that it was a great sin to offer used garlands to God. But God made it known to Periyalwar that nothing pleased Him more than wearing garlands first worn by Goda Devi. Vishnu Chitta then understood the greatness of the child and how fortunate he was to have her as a Divine gift.

As she grew up into a lovely maiden, she resolved to marry none other than Lord Sri Ranganatha of Srirangam. It is believed that Lord Ranganatha went to Srivilliputtur and married Andal in great pomp. He remained at Srivilliputtur as Ranga Mannar in which form He is still there with Andal.

Her two compositions have been found to be masterpieces in poetry as well as truth consciousness. Tiruppavai, consisting of 30 stanzas, deals with a rite (vrata) to be observed by young unmarried girls in the month of Margazhi so that God may grant them the best husband. The other composition called, Naachiyar Tirumozhi, consists of 143 verses exudes Krishna love. As a composer of devotional lyrics she is regarded as an Alwar. She is also one of the consorts of the Lord,- a Nachiyar. By the garland of flowers she wore before offering them to Him, she is a consort of Divinity. By the garland of verses she composed she has a pride of place among the devotees. In essence Poomaalai (garland of flowers) and Paamaalai (garland of verses) are regarded as her two-fold offering.

Tondaradippodi Alwar

Vipranarayana was born in Tirumandangudi, in Tanjore district in a Brahmin family under the star Jyeshta. He moved to Srirangam and started worshipping Lord Ranganatha. He reared a flower garden and used to offer flowers and Tulasi to the Lord. Very soon he became a victim to the wiles of a Devadasi (courtesan) by the name of Devadevi. Under her influence he forgot his routines and even the worship to Lord Ranganatha. In course of time, through the grace and mercy of the Lord he soon weaned from his ignorant ways and infatuation and turned into a great devotee.


Thus it is a story of a saint turned sinner. This saint wrote 55 Prabandhas in all – 45 verses from among them are called Tirumaalai (garland), the other 10 being called Tiruppalli-Ezhuchi (waking song). Tirumaalai touches the heights of religious fervour. Tiruppalli-Ezhuchi is a set of poems praying for the lord to get up from His bed.

The saint Vipranarayana was later called Tondaradippodi alwar – referring to the dust from the feet of true devotees. It appears as if the saint prayed that the Lord accept him as a servant of His Bhaktas – such was his humility and such was his devotion.


Tiruppanalwar was born in the month of Krithigai under the star Rohini. Tradition has it that as a baby he was found and brought up by a member of the Panar caste. His parents lived in a place called Woraiyur on the southern banks of the river Cauvery facing the famous shrine of Lord Ranganatha. The vocation of members of this caste appears to have been that of making veena like musical instruments called Pan. However, members of this caste were treated as untouchables.

The saint spent his life in singing the praises of the God. His heart yearned for a Darshana of Lord Ranganatha. Yet he could not cross the river much less enter the temple due to restrictions on his caste!

One day a priest, by the name of Lokasaranga, from the temple went to Cauvery to fetch water and found the great devotee standing and singing in ecstasy. The priest asked him to get out of his way and when the saint failed to respond threw a stone at him. The saint apologized and moved away. The priest when he reached the temple found to his horror blood trickling from the forehead of the Lord. That night he dreamt of Lord Ranganatha ordering him to physically carry the great devotee to His presence in the temple. The priest carried out the instructions. The great devotee had his wish fulfilled in serving the Lord. The erstwhile Panar became one with the Lord he so deeply loved. Panar became Tiruppanalwar and later Pan Perumal.

Tiruppanalwar composed only 10 Pasurams. It has become part of the Mudalayiram (first 1000) and is being recited daily as part of what is called Nitya-anusandhaanam (daily recitations). For an appreciative description in the Archa (idol) form of the Lord this Prabandham finds no equal.

Tirumangai Alwar

Saint Tirumangai Alwar was born in a village named Kurayalur in Tanjore district. He was born in the month of Karthigai (November- December) under the star Karthigai.


He was the last of the Alwars. It is reported that he lived during the 8th century AD. The Alwar was known as Neelan before he turned into a saint.

As a young man he wanted to marry a lady named Kumudavalli. To do so, he took a vow that he will feed hundreds of Vishnu Bhaktas every day. Soon he lost all his wealth. He then turned into a dacoit and started using the money earned thereby to feed the Bhaktas. It is said that Lord Vishnu and His consort Lakshmi disguised as newlyweds and wearing glittering ornaments passed through the forest covered by these dacoits. Neelan ordered them to surrender all the jewels and ended up in personally pulling off the ornaments. As soon as he touched the feet of the Lord he was a changed man. He was not anymore the Neelan the dacoit. It is a tale of a sinner turning into a saint.

Starting with the famous stanza “ Vaadinen; Vaadi Varundinen; Manathaar perunthuyar” (withered in spirit and pained in mind), the Alwar has sung 1253 Pasurams or verses which go make up six Prabandhas. They are (1) Periya Thriumozhi (2) Thirukkurunthandagam (3) Thirunedunthandagam (4) Thiru vezhukootirukkai (5) Siriya Thrumadal (6) Periya Thirumadal.

Out of this the first one Periya Thriumozhi consists of 1084 verses and deals extensively with the enjoyment of worship of Archa (idol) forms of the Lord in several sacred places, from Badri in the north to Tirukkurungudi in the south. It is commonly believed that the worship of the idol at the temple is only a basic step, and helps the devotee to concentrate on the divine. One has to rise above this level in the process of the realization of God. However, Tirumangai Alwar argues that the idol is not just the body of God but is, in fact, God Himself. On this basis he argues that it is a waste of time to hanker for the bliss of Paramapada in time to come. A bird in hand is worth two in the bush. He further argues that from among the 4 Purusharthas (Dharma, Artha, Kama and Moksha) Kama as the most desirable Purushaartha! He urges all people to divert the rushing forces of Kama (desire) towards God. Fulfil your love, quench your passion by communion with the beautiful and merciful God who resides in temples. He calls out to his fellow beings not to starve their senses or go to the forest and do rigid Tapas amidst the five fires. He challenges the Lord “ why do you get into my heart and lurk there like a thief? Come out and let me see your beautiful body with my eyes which are longing for a vision of you”. This in a nutshell describes the outlook of this Alwar.

He was a very active saint. He visited almost all of the 108 Divya Desas – 86 out of a total of 108. He helped in raising the great walls around the Ranganatha temple at Sri Rangam. He arranged to bring the statue of Nammalvar from Azhwar Thirunagari to Sri Rangam.


Divya Deshams

Ritual is a demonstration of the religion in an external form. It provides a scope for us to observe religion outwardly. It is akin to the feet of the religion. It may not be the essence of the religion, yet it is not a non-essential part of the religion. It is, so to say, an outer form of the religion. When its spirit is missed, religion is seen to stagnate and not rise to higher levels. Every religion has its own rituals.

The joys and sorrows of the mind are demonstrated before the deity in an act of Puja. The mind comes out of its limitations and feels an expansion of its content and existence during the act of religious ritual.

Ritual has a social element as well. It unites the society and the nation into a composite whole in which the parts are cemented together with a bond of affinity of feeling and purpose. This introduces strength to the society. The aspect of pilgrimage (Tirtha-Yatra) brings the advantage of historical renovation and respect for ancient traditions of different places. It arouses in the minds of people a special relationship to distant places. Without such injunctions people will lose association with others and the force binding them into a single character, called culture will be missing.

The word Theertha” refers to sacred water. Theertha sthala or Theertha kshetra” is a sacred or a holy spot. It could be a river, a lake or even a mountain that is made sacred through association with a deity or a saint. It is said that Theertha possesses three elements that make it sacred – suchi (pure}, it brings punya and it is shubha (auspicious). They are also referred to as Punya Sthalas.

Alwars of south India are mystics whose consciousness does not work in compartments. Evidently, deep mystics as all of them really are, they have revealed a new experience to the world consciousness – similar to the Vedic seers who saw all deities in one.

The Alwars composed approximately 4000 Tamil verses. In the 9th – 10th century, the philosopher saint Nathamuni took extraordinary steps to recover these verses. Saint Nathamuni arranged them as the Divya Prabandham (Divine collection), set many of them to music and rejuvenated the tradition of formally reciting them in temples

The verses of Alwars speak of the glory of Sri Maha Vishnu, of instances from Puranas and the glory of temples visited by the Alwars. The shrines visited by Alwars and sang their verses are hailed as Divya Deshams.


Geographic locations

Out of the 108 Divya Deshams, 2 are celestial abodes of Lord Narayana; The rest were located as follows-

40 of the shrines are located in Chola kingdom in Tamilnadu; 22 are located near Kanchipuram and Chennai; 2 are located in Nadu Naadu (Tiruvahindrapuram and Tiru kkovilur); 18 are located in Pandiya nadu; 11 are in Kerala, 2 near kanyakumari; 1 at Tirupathi; 1 at Ahobilam; 7 in Uttar Pradesh; 1 in Nepal and 1 in Gujarat

The shrines

Out of the 108 Divya Deshams, 47 have been addressed by Sri Tirumangai alwar; 18 by Nammalwar; 2 have been addressed by Tirumazhisai alwar; 1 by Kulasekhara alwar; 1 by Perialwar; the remaining 39 are addressed by hymns composed by more than one Alwar. 247 verses were addressed to Srirangam; 202 were addressed to Tirupathi; 128 were addressed to Azhagar Koil; 7 were addressed Kanchipuram


Saivism is one of the very ancient and dominant schools of philosophies in India, dating back to a few thousand years. A large majority of Shiva temples are seen in the south of India, some of them dating back a few thousand years.

The Nayanmars are the leaders of Bhakti movement in the south. Sixty two saints lived during the period 7th through the 9th century AD. These saints lived expressing their devotion to Lord Shiva. A sixty third saint, Sundaramoorthy Nayanar honoured all these saints in his famous Tamil work Tirutondattogai. At a later date, in the 12th century AD, Sekkizhar, researched the lives of all these saints and produced his prodigious work known as Periya Puranam.

It is this group of sixty three saints who are referred to as Nayanmars. The Tevaram hymns of the Nayanmar saints speak of the existence of 275 odd shrines during that phase of history. The traditions in these shrines survived thousands of years later to the period origin of the famous hymns. These 275 shrines are referred to “Paadal Petra Sthalams.” Following is a list of Tirumurais



There are twelve “Tirumurais”. Tirumurai means a sacred book. The first three Tirumurais were composed by three great Saivite saints. They are considered as the musical compositions of their age.

1.Thevaram by Tirujnana Sambandhar

2.Thevaram by Tirujnana Sambandhar

3.Thevaram by Tirujnana Sambandhar

4.. Thevaram by Tirunavukkaracar

5.Thevaram by Tirunavukkaracar

6.Thevaram by Tirunavukkaracar

7.Thevaram by Tirunavukkaracar

8.Tiruvachakam Tirukkovaiyar by Manikkavachakar 9.Tiruvicaippa Tiruppallandu by Tirumalikaittever, Centanar, 10.Karuvurttevar, Nampikatava nampi, Kantaratittar, Venattatikal, 11.Tiruvaliyamutanar, Purutottama nampi, Cetirayar

Tirumantiram by Tirumullar

Forty on works by Karaikkal Ammaiyar, Ceraman Perumal Nayanar,

Pattinattu -pillaiyar, Nakkiratevar Nayanar, Kapilateva Nayanar, Thiruvalavaiyudaiyar, Nampiyantarnampi, IyyadigalkatavarkonNayanar,

Kalladateva Nayanar, Paranateva Nayanar, Ellamperuman Adigal and Athiravadigal.

Periya Puranam by Sekkizhar

The first seven Tirumuraigal, authored by three of the foremost Nayanmars, are called “Thevarams”. The word Thevaram means a garland of songs in praise of the Divine.


Padal Petra Sthalam

Out of the 275 Shivasthalams, the one at Tiruvidaivaai was discovered in the year 1917 and it has a “Patikam”, by Sri Sambandar, engraved on its wall. However, this Patikam is not considered part of the works of the saint traditionally associated with Tamil Tirumurais. The Shivasthalams that have atleast one Patikam composed in their honour are referred to, commonly, as Padal Petra Sthalam. Hence we have 274 Padal Petra Sthalams. In addition, though there are 249 other Shiva shrines referred to in the Tevarams, they do not bear a Patikam. These are referred to as “Tevara Vaippu Sthalams”.

These Patikams have been handed over from generation to generation. Even today, we hear these hymns rendered by highly trained people in the art of singing these hymns. These people are called “Oduvars”.

Shiva temples in Kerala created by Lord Parasurama

According to legend Lord Parasurama created the land between Gokarna and Kanyakumari. He then donated this land to Brahmins and got them settled in 64 villages. Further, he consecrated 216 temples in this region – 108 Shiva temples and 108 Durga temples. These are very old temples and the tradition of singing hymns in praise of Lord Shiva is being continued.



Chapter XV – In Pursuit of Supreme Reality

Followers of Nyaya School of philosophical speculation (logic) believed that obtaining valid knowledge is a way to obtaining release from suffering. They took great pains to identify valid sources of knowledge and to distinguish these from false opinions.

The Indian school of logic is not a recent arrival on the Indian scene. Gautama (6th Century BCE) founded the anviksiki school of logic. The Indian logic is the oldest and it was followed much later by the Greek and Chinese traditions. More about these will be discussed under “Shad-Darsanas” (Six schools of philosophies) in this publication.

In Pursuit of Supreme Reality

In the search of Supreme Reality, one must remember that He cannot be grasped by ordinary perception or inference. That is the challenge.

Philosophy, like most other systems of thought in India, is based on religious experience, metaphysics and ethics, rather than on epistemology. That logic should legislate for our experience is an important thing and cannot be denied. However, it is equally important to see that logic should find its feet on the ground and not allowed to soar in the sky without any let or control of facts. At the end of the day Yadaartha Jnana is the main aim of all philosophizing. Experience is manifold, and the truth about experience must embrace all facts falling within that experience. If segments of experience alone are accepted, denying the rest, it will only result in a logical collapse.

All metaphysical searches are after the Supreme Reality. Knowledge of the Real is possible. The question for us is – how do you apprehend the Supreme Reality. There are several theories of knowledge. Science takes its start from perceptual experience.- undoubtedly the only type of experience of Reality. Yet, the existence of God transcends the conditions of space and time. (desk – Kaala). He cannot be known through ordinary perception or inference. The Supreme Being is beyond the pale of Pramaanaas of perception and anumaana – “Yam evaisa vrnute tena labhyah” – Kathopanishad. He who is chosen by Him will perceive Him. “Not by austerities nor yet by mere Jnana nor yet by works. It is only by the grace of Divine can the Highest be known, understood and entered. Only then that the Perfect Being becomes a Real being for the individual. Till then we should be content to believe in it and strive to get to Him. That there is a higher demand on us, the parama- purushaartha (which means the demand to conceive, perceive and even experience the actual existence of the Supreme Reality), even here and now, has been well


documented. The moral demand and religious imperative compel our cognition to struggle forward beyond the immediate sensory towards the vision that can only come from the grace of the Supreme Being. The struggle is never finished till this ultimate goal is reached.

Sri Ramanujacharya accepts that the essence that supports the whole Reality is Spiritual and not material. An inference from the nature of experience to the existence of God is said to be sufficient proof for the existence of God. Sri Ramanujacharya differs. He contends that all arguments based on cosmology are based on comparisons and analogies available on fragmentary creative activities of finite beings. This cannot lead to the proof of the omnipotent, omni-pervasive Being at all. Further, these arguments prove a substance and not a personality and spirit.

The Nyaya argument is that God could be inferred from the conception of the most perfect intelligence required for the sake of explaining the order, design and the intricate motions and arrangements involved. At the back of all this intelligence, there is a super intelligence. Therefore God must be postulated as an existing being and a super cause of creation.

However, Sri Ramanujacharya maintains that these proofs are insufficient to prove the Divine. They may prove a capable creator but not an all-creator. The cosmological argument cannot prove the existence of God. It may prove that it is necessary for the existence of the world as we experience it now. It cannot affirm its existence though it may necessitate a presumption. And presumption is not proof. That is why it is said that the existence of God can only be proved by a vision of Him – saakshatkaara. God cannot be proved by inference. Inference cannot involve existence. Existence depends on the conditions of space- time – Desa kaala akaara. The existence of God transcends the conditions of space and time.

Where does that take us in the pursuit of true knowledge? It is not based on some kind of blind belief. Nor is it based on some holy person asserting, “I say so”. Whilst reason or understanding infers correctly about other things, it can never infer correctly about the Whole and the Supreme Transcendent.

Whatever means we adopt to gain valid knowledge, some clear rules must be established for analysis and synthesis. Importantly efficient methods of weaning out sources of error must also be laid out. For example, metaphysically speaking, almost all the theories of Indian Philosophy hold that the sense organs are products of karma, action, and as such are imperfect veiling agents. For this reason, the sense organs make things appear different from what they truly are. Facts or experiences derived from faulty sources vitiate the findings. Provided the instruments of our cognition are all in healthy condition, un-diseased, sane and unemotional the results are acceptable.


In th