What Gets Destroyed When You Fall in Love with Transcendence?

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Continuing the amazing story of Pṛthu’s conversation with the four child-sages…

Delighted to hear the sage speak so clearly and definitely, but with such depth and breadth, the King eagerly asked, “What happens when a person falls in love with that transcendental consciousness?”

Sanāt smiled out of satisfaction with the King’s eagerness to hear more on the subject. “When we fall firmly into love with that transcendent being,” the boy said, “then, if we also have an experienced guide, that love will produce very powerful knowledge and disinterest in all other things. These weaken the power of the five things that obscure our soul, burning them away like fire destroying its own source.”

The boy did not list the five things obscuring the soul, because he knew the King was learned, and already knew them: ignorance, self-ambition, attachment, aversion, and fear.

It’s significant that an “experienced guide” (ācārya) is also required. Without that guide the love is not as likely to “burn” properly and produce the effects of knowledge and detatchment (jñāna-virāga).

Transcendent love (ratiḥ brahmaṇi) manifests within the mental and emotional coverings of the soul – just as fire (an energy) can manifest from wood (a solid), despite the fact that energy and wood are two different elements (bhūta). However, fire is a superior element to wood, therefore the fire consumes the wood. Similarly transcendent love consumes the material mind that hosts it.

“What happens,” the king asked, “when that transcendent love arises in the soul’s mental and emotional coverings and then burns them away?”

“When these things are burnt away, we become emancipated from all our external attractions. When we cease to look at external things, we instead see our inner selves with perfect clarity. The previous obstructions which prevented us from seeing the Supersoul within us are now gone, just as things in a dream disappear.”

Currently we don’t see the superself. We only see the self as the ultimate “bottom line” of importance. This is because all our attention is focused outward, creating an obstruction to seeing the Paramātma at our inner root. This will be explained more fully…

“Please explain this a little further!” the king requested.

“Our desires for sensual pleasure place a veil on our perceptions, causing us to see ourselves as the entity of primary importance. This blocks us from seeing our intimate and absolute dependence on the entity of truly ultimate importance, the Super-self. However, when desires are burned away by love for the transcendent, that veil disappears and we no longer see ourselves as being independent from the Supersoul. When the veil is in place, we see ourselves through the qualities in the veil – and therefore imagine the qualities of the veil to be integral parts of who and what we are. This gives the false impression that we are independent entities, separated from one another and from our root, the Superself.”

When transcendent love causes us to lose attraction to external pleasures, the veil obscuring the supersoul dissolves, and we see ourself as we truly are – inseparably integrated with the supersoul.

– Excerpt from an early draft of Part 4 of

Beautiful Tales of the All-Attractive

A translation of Śrīmad Bhāgavatam’s fourth canto

By Vraja Kishor

[With additional explanatory notes]

Parts 1, 2, and 3 of Beautiful Tales of the All Attractive

are available at VrajaKishor.com

Practical Advice on Bhakti Yoga

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The child-sages smiled lovingly and happily when they heard Pṛthu’s words, so sweet, appropriate, essential, accurate, and to the point. Sanat Kumār replied on behalf of them all.

“What a wonderful question you’ve asked, Emperor, about the welfare of all living beings,” the boy-sage said. “Although very learned, sādhus always ask questions. That is how their intellect works. Just as you are happy to be in our company, we are happy to be in yours. The meeting of sādhus is certainly wonderful, because their questions and answers allow peace and prosperity to unfold for everyone.”

The king humbly scoffed at the sage’s calling him a sādhu, so the boy explained, “It is obvious, King, that you have real desire to hear about the qualities of the lotus-like feet of the slayer of ignorance, Madhudviṣa. This desire washes away the impossibly rooted muddy stain of selfishness from the inner core of our beings.”

God_VishnuThe king could not speak, so the boy continued. “Let me answer your question. We have carefully examined all the śāstra and reached a definite conclusion: the true cause of relief from suffering is to lose attachment to a self-concept that has nothing to do with the true self, and to fall solidly and strongly in love with the conscious entity who is beyond all conventional qualifications.”

“Please tell us,” the King eagerly asked, “how can we fall solidly and strongly in love with that transcendental being?”

“The auspicious method is to practice bhagavat-dharma by thoroughly and wholeheartedly learn the spiritual philosophy about the nature of All-Attractive Bhagavān. Worship the Master of Mystic Potency by consistently hearing about and discussing him.”

“How will we be able to engage in this auspicious method consistently?” The king asked.

“You will have to distance yourself from those who consistently want to do other things, due to their relentless hunger for indulging in sensual pleasures with sexual partners.”

“How can we distance ourselves from these people,” the king asked, “when we are those people?”

“Drink the nectar of Hari’s qualities,” Sanāt Kumār said delightfully, “and you will experience a sense of satisfaction so profound that you will give up all other ideas of pleasure.”

“Once we gain an initial taste for Hari’s qualities,” the king asked, “how do we develop and deepen it?”

“Cause harm to no one,” the boy replied swiftly and clearly. “And try to live the way great, peaceful spiritualists live: always expressly intent on remembering the nectarean flavor of lotus-faced Mukunda. Also, observe the restraints of self-control – by living with minimal needs, and prevent yourself from insulting anyone – by tolerating loss and gain.

“To summarize,” the boy-sage concluded, “we can most easily fall in love with that transcendental consciousness beyond conventional qualification by always decorating our ears ever more and more devotionally with the beautiful sound of Hari’s wonderful qualities, described by his devotees. This devotion also easily causes detachment from the self-irrelevant world of cause and effect.”

– Excerpt from an early draft of Part 4 of

Beautiful Tales of the All-Attractive

A translation of Śrīmad Bhāgavatam’s fourth canto

By Vraja Kishor

Parts 1, 2, and 3 of Beautiful Tales of the All Attractive

are available at VrajaKishor.com

How to Respect Sadhus, and How Sadhus Avoid Respect.

Sanaka_and_other_sages_preaching_to_Shukracharya_and_Vrutrasura

Chapter 22 of Bhāgavatam continues… The four child-sages have appeared at King Pṛthu’s ceremonial arena, and he has welcomed them. Now he begins talking with them and will ask his first question.

When they were seated on their golden seats, the boys seemed like sacred fire in an altar. With deeply appreciative deference for these older brothers of Śiva, the king said, “Aho! What auspicious deeds must I have done to warrant the company of you auspicious beings? Simply seeing you grants benedictions that even yogis cannot find! What could remain impossible to attain, in this world or beyond, for a person who has achieved the grace of great scholars like yourselves?”

The boys appeared uncomfortable with the praise. So the king said, “You are, like your brother Śiva, devotees of Viṣṇu, so my praise is not an exaggeration.”

The boys accepted this but still tried to dodge the king’s praises. “We always travel everywhere, so what is the big deal about our coming here?”

“You always travel everywhere,” the king replied, “but do so beyond the sight of common people, just as we don’t see the all-seeing consciousness that is the cause and essence of everything we see.”

The boys remained silent so the king continued, “Your appearance among us is the greatest wealth! Even a poverty-stricken home should be treated like the wealthiest home in the world if it welcomes sādhus like you.”

“You have welcomed us with expensive golden thrones and many other fancy things,” the boys said. “A poor home has no such things, so how would they properly welcome a sādhu?

“Wealth is not important to a sādhu,” the king said. “Every home at least has water, with which they can welcome you.”

“What if their well has run dry?” the boys asked.

“They can spread some grass on the ground for you to sit on.”

“What if their land is barren, and they have no grass?”

“If they don’t even have grass they can sweep a portion of the ground for you to sit there.”

“What if they are striken with illness and cannot even get up?”

“They can simply offer you their heartfelt feelings.”

“Is this inferior to the fancy reception you have given us?” the boy-sages asked.

“Not at all,” the king replied. “Wealth is not important, the feelings of affection and respect for the sādhu is. A home may overflow with opulence and wealth, but if it is devoid of the water that washes the feet of sādhus, it is like a tree full of snakes. One should not recline in its shade.”

The boys’ faces glowed with delight and appreciation for the King’s deep and sincere realization.

Svāgataṁ!” The king declared, “We welcome you! You are the greatest scholars! You have taken up strict vows in your quest for enlightenment, and, although you are the most serious, devoted, and deep persons, you move about in the form of children! My question for you is this: Most people know nothing except what their senses show them. Plagued by this disease, they value nothing except external objects, and get completely dragged down by their own endeavors to enjoy these objects. O masters, is there any hope for them? Can anything cure them and bring them true happiness?”

Feeling bad for having jumped quickly into his question without asking anything about his guests themselves the king explained, “I don’t ask you how you are doing because there is no doubt that you must be doing well. You are delighted by virtue of your own consciousness, and therefore have no concern with good and bad, or any other illusions. People say you are ascetics, but in fact they are the ones who suffer difficulties, not you. You are friends and guides of us all, so I am asking you – what is the most effective way for people suffering in this world to get relief?”

– Excerpt from an early draft of Part 4 of

Beautiful Tales of the All-Attractive

A translation of Śrīmad Bhāgavatam’s fourth canto

By Vraja Kishor

Parts 1, 2, and 3 of Beautiful Tales of the All Attractive

are available at VrajaKishor.com

Respect Comes Naturally

Sankadi_Muni_Bhagavan

I’ve taken the auspicious opportunity of Śrī Krishna Janmāṣṭhamī to resume my work on presenting Canto Four of Śrīmad Bhāgavatam, in the same manner as I have so far managed, despite myself, to present the first three. I resume from the very beginning of Chapter 22:

Just as the citizens finished expressing their appreciation to King Pṛthu, four sages entered the arena, descending from the sky and shining as brilliantly as the sun. The King and his retinue recognized them as Brahma’s original quadruplet children. They all stood up to greet the sages, as eagerly and naturally as the senses arise to greet their desired sense objects.

Back-To-Godhead-Prthu-Maharaja-With-Four-kumarasThe most significant thing here is that Prthu’s expression of respect towards the sages came “as eagerly and naturally as the senses arise to greet their desired sense objects.” (indriyeśo guṇān iva)

What does this show?

First, it shows that the four sages were obviously respectable – as much as a voluptuous woman is obviously desirable and attractive, there is no denying it. There is a lot of artificial respect given these days, because no one really has many genuine good qualities. Therefore rules and traditions and cultural morrays have to be put into place and enforced to insure that the people who thrive on respect continue to get it. This is the system of respect that flourishes in kali-yuga, in the absence of truly respectable people. When a person is truly respectable, we automatically respond accordingly; just as our saliva starts to flow upon seeing and smelling a wonderfully delish, fresh, hot plate of excellent food.

Second, it shows that King Pṛthu was not “diseased.” Excellent sense objects do not always arouse the senses, for example, if the senses are weak and ill. A diseased person does not have the spontaneous reaction to delicious food that a healthy person has. Similarly, in kali-yuga we are all diseased in our interest of what sages have to offer. Therefore even if a self-evidently exalted sage comes into our midst, we do not respond. We prefer instead to continue offering our pretentious respects to the powerful personalities officially endorced by the leaders of our organizations and societies – because we are diseased; we do not have interest in the wisdom of sages, we have interest in obtaining better chapattis and more comfortable coushins, and maintaining a roof over our head and meals in our plates.

So, two things are required: an excellent sense object and healthy senses. Then there can be enjoyment, and the senses spontaneously awaken for it. Similarly there must be a genuine sage with, and there must be a person sincerely interested in true wisdom. Then the sage will be happily and warmly welcomed and wisdom can flourish.

Under the influence of their glorious nature, the civilized king approached them with humble posture, and very respectfully welcomed them properly with offerings and seats. He personally washed their feet, and then bathed the knot of hair atop his own head with that water. He did this in front of everyone, so that everyone would know his opinion of the exalted sages, and the proper behavior even a king should show to the wise.

– Vraja Kishor dās

www.vrajakishor.com

Karma in the Spiritual Realm?

play

Question: Karma applies only in this realm – only in this material world, right? Or does it also apply to the soul in the non material world?

My reply:
Karma is cause and effect as a result of work.

We exist on one side of the kāraṇa ocean (the ocean of causality). Ours is the side where a lack in the soul motivates work (karma) which sets cause and effect in motion. The other side of the ocean of causality, the “non-material realm” or the “spiritual world” as we often call it, is “Vaikuṇṭha” – a place where there is no want whatsoever. On that side of existence it is not a lack in the soul but the fullness of the soul which motivates action. Thus the action is not “work” (karma) but “play” (līlā).

Play also has sequence to it, and thus follows a type of cause and effect – but the whole thing is effortless and free, so it is not called karma, it is called līlā.

Vraja Kishor das

www.vrajakishor.com

Learn the Gita, with Vraja Kishor

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Learn the Gita

with Vraja Kishor

18 Online Sessions, starting Sunday August 7th at 1pm Australian time (10:30 Indian, 7am German). $220 Tuition. Find out more: http://vrajakishor.com/class_gita.html

2016-Summer-Euro

What should I control first, my mind or my senses?

Peeking Over the Counter

This question arose when studying chapter three of Bhagavad Gītā in our online course, in reference to text 41.

Question: Why is it easiest or most efficient to correct selfishness through disciplining the senses FIRST, as opposed to the intellect or emotions? Intuitively, that seems backwards to me since everything flows from the mind.

My Reply: I agree it is backwards in a sense. And also seems to be directly at odds with something Krishna brought up at the beginning of the chapter. 

At the beginning of the chapter (3.7) says, yas tv indriyāṇi manasā niyamyārabhate ’rjuna (“To control the senses you must begin by controlling the mind.”) At the end of the chapter (3.41) however, he says, tasmāt tvam indriyāṇy ādau niyamya bharatarṣabha (“[To reclaim control of your heart and mind] begin by controlling the senses”)

However, this contradiction arises only from an incomplete reading of 3.7. The complete text says yas tv indriyāṇi manasā niyamyārabhate ’rjuna (“To control the senses you must begin by controlling the mind.”), and the second half of the text says, karmendriyaiḥ karma-yogam asaktaḥ sa viśiṣyate (“The best way to control the mind, however, is to use the active senses for responsible, un-selfish work.”)

So, the first half of the 7th text admits that, as you noted, volition flows from the mind into the actions of the body, and therefore a self-disciplined mind will automatically result in self-disiplined body, senses, and actions. However, the means to transform the mind from undisciplined to self-disciplined is to regulate its freedom to flow into the body. The mind’s freedom to flow its desires into our actions meets resistance by our effort to discipline our actions, and this resistance (as in any exercise) is what causes things to change in us.

If done improperly, the desires of the mind become pent-up and soon burst through the attempts at restriction. This happens when the restriction is too strict, sudden and unrealistic. It’s like a person who suddenly takes to working out after being completely lazy, follows a very strict program, and gets a heart attack or at least wrecks all their muscles.

The proper way to do it is to let enough selfish energy through, releasing some of the “steam” in the mind, while also holding some back. This regulated resistance strengthens the “discipline muscles.” We gradually increase the force of the regulation.

The person Krishna described at the beginning of Chapter Three – the mithyācarī “pretender” – is a person who leaps into sudden and unrealistically strict disciplines. The mental energy of selfishness has not subsided or been subdued, and it simply builds up in frustration behind the ostentatious attempts to damn it up. Krishna denounces this type of “renunciation” as a fraud.

The person Krishna advises Arjun to become, at the end of Chapter Three – the karma-yogī – gradually drains the selfish energy from the desires of the mind by gradually advancing their discipline and restriction, replacing selfish deeds more and more thoroughly with self-less equivalents that serve others far more primarily than they serve oneself.

Why not just go directly to work on the mind’s desires? Because it is simply too mysterious, subtle and slippery for a common person like you or I to face in a one-on-one battle. We would never be able to win and bring that foe under our control. Therefore Krishna’s plan of attack at the end of Chapter Three is to start with easier targets, and from there advance into the enemy’s deeper strongholds. Our actions are the most tangible, practical, and visible parts of our personality, so this is the easiest target of attack for we who want to gain mastery of the more mysterious, deep aspects of our self.

Vraja Kishor das

vrajakishor.com

OK, Really, What are the Vedas?

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The Veda is the beginningless information self-manifest by reality itself. It was to the first entity, Brahmā, that Viṣṇu first revealed full access to it. Brahmā then verbalized it to his initial children. Those children, especially the Seven Sages (Sāpta Ṛṣi) codified his words into specific mantra, thus creating the original Yajur Veda.

Over time, the meaning of these mantra became garbled and confusing, even to Brahmā.

Vyāsa repairs this by editing. His edit creates four divisions pertaining to four aspects of sacrifice, and a fifth division for the important contextual information underlying the sacrifices. These divisions are elaborated upon  over a long span of time by scholars under Vyāsa’s instruction and guidance. (Vyāsa is superhuman, although even without this, his influence and representatives could have overseen the further development of the five divisions.)

The elaboration resulted in enormous volumes of Vedic text nearly impossible for a single human to study in a single lifetime. Also, the elaboration resulted in many diverse viewpoints, difficult to reconcile. Seeing this as a shortcoming, Vyāsa set out to harmonize all the diversity, while also shrinking the enormity of the Veda into a single book of mystical codes: the Brahma-sūtra.

Upon completion, he found the codes to be too mysterious, so he set out to illustrate them using vivid and colorful stories related to Krishna and great historical personalities. This resulted in the epic Mahābhārata.

Upon completion he remained dissatisfied, for the ultimate esoteric essence of the Veda was not yet perfectly clear, even when reconciled and condensed into the Brahma-sūtra and illustrated by the Mahābhārata. Vyāsa then took the foremost Purāṇa, named Bhāgavata, and revised it in light of Brahma-sūtra and Mahābhārata. Thus he created Śrīmad Bhāgavatam, the ultimate fruit of the Vedic tree, and became fully satisfied that he had restored, and perhaps even improved, the original exposition of the Veda.

This is the answer to one of the homework questions in the second session of an online course called, “The Role of Sacred Text in Gauḍīya Bhakti.”

– Vraja Kishor

www.vrajakishor.com

The Real Subject of Gayatri

Gayatri-Mata-With-Gayatri-Mantra-Wallpaper

 

 

What is a “Gāyatrī”?

The Veda is mostly poetry, meant to be sung. Chandaḥ — the metrics of poetic rhythm — is therefore one of the six essential subjects of traditional Vedic study, vedāṅga. Gāyatrī is a poetic-meter that has 24 syllables in total, divided into three lines with eight syllables in each.

The word gāyatrī is very similar to the word mantra. Mantra means “the tool (-tra) by which the mind (man-)”[i] can be saved (trayate).” Gāyatrī means, “the tool (-tra) by which a song (gāya-) can rescue us.”[ii]

What is “the Gāyatrī”?

There are a plethora of “gāyatrī mantra.” The most famous is Ṛg 3.62.10. It is so famous that saying, “gāyatrī” is practically the same as saying, “Ṛg 3.62.10.” This particular gāyatrī can also be addressed more directly and explicitly as the brahma gāyatrī – signifying that it represents the essence of all Vedic wisdom (brahma), or as the sāvitrī gāyatrī – signifying that it describes the ultimate origin of life and creation (savitṛ), or as sārasvatī gāyatrī, because the mantra is the epitome of verbal communication (sārasatī / vāk) and is therefore integral to the Vedic educational process, blessed by the Goddess of Learning (sarasvatī).

Agni Purāṇa (216.1-2):

It is called Gāyatrī because it sings (gāyati) about mantra, consciousness, perception, and the supreme.  It is called Sāvitrī because it reveals the ultimate life-giver (savitā). It is called Sārasvatī because it is the essence of all words.

This gāyatrī is:

tat savitur vareṇiyaṁ
bharga devasya dhīmahī
dhiyo yo naḥ prachodayat

You may notice that I have spelled the third word on the first line vareṇiyaṁ (giving it four syllables), although it is often spelled vareṇyam (with three syllables). The spelling I use fulfills the rule of gātatrī having eight syllables per line.[iii]

When used as mantra — a tool for thought, contemplation, and meditation — Vedic statements are prefixed by a sacred syllable. Taittiriya Aranyaka (2.11.1-8) specifies the prefixes to use for this particular gāyatrī: the sacred syllable  auṁ, followed by three vyāhṛti (invocational words): bhur, bhuvaḥ, and svaḥ.

The complete form of this gāyatrī, used as a mantra, is therefore:

auṁ

bhur bhuvaḥ svaḥ

tat savitur vareṇiyaṁ
bharga devasya dhīmahī
dhiyo yo naḥ pracodayat

Uses of Gāyatrī

Historically, India used gāyatrī primarily in the upayana ceremony initiating a student into study of the Vedas. It was used by the student for a meditation done three times a day, at sunrise, noon, and sunset.[iv] Since brāḥmanas undergo the most extensive education, gāyatrī has come to be a mantra associated with that caste, but originally everyone who received formal education (which includes kṣatriya, vaiṣya, and some śūdra) received the mantra in the upayana ceremony at their commencement. Similarly it has also come to be a mantra associated with men, but was originally given to both men and women at the beginning of their education. Defense of these points is outside the scope of this article about the meaning of gāyatrī, but for further exploration of these points please explore my references.[v]

Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇava’s did not use the mantra as part of their sādhana until relatively modern times, when visionary Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī (1874 – 1937) introduced it in the dīkṣā ceremony, probably as part of his effort to impress upon the public that Vaiṣṇavas are automatically as good as brāḥmanas. Instead, they used the kāma-gāyatrī – a different gāyatrī with the same meter and structure as brahma-gāyatrī, but specifically dedicated to meditation upon Bhagavān as the original erotic principle, Kāmadeva. This is why Gauḍīya lineages not connected to Bhaktisiddhānta’s Gauḍīya Maṭha do not meditate on brahma-gāyatrī as part of their bhakti-sādhana, nor is the brahma-gāyatrī included in Gauḍīya meditation handbooks (smaraṇa-paddhati). Instead the kāma-gāyatrī is prominent, and has prominent explanations by important Gauḍīya ācāryas like Prabhodānanda Sārasvatī (Kāma-Gāyatrī-Vyākhyā) and Visvanātha Cakravarti (Mantrārtha-Dīpikā).

Although the Gauḍīyas did not use brahma-gāyatī they did respect the mantra immensely. In the founding document of the Gauḍīya school,  Bhāgavata-Sandarbha (aka Ṣaḍ-Sandarbha), Śrī Jīva Goswāmī recognizes the brahma-gāyatrī as the essence of the Veda, and therefore the foundation of the Śrīmad Bhāgavatam — the Gauḍīya’s primary text. He explains the mantra’s meaning in the Tattva and Paramātmā sections of the Sandarbha.

Meaning of Gāyatrī

Before exploring Śrī Jīva’s exposition of it’s meaning, we should become familiar with the words themselves.

The syllable auṁ is the mystic seed of everything. The beginning, middle, and end of existence. The three invocational words — bhur, bhuvaḥ, and svaḥ — describe the earth, sky and heavens respectively: three planes of existence.

Tat literally means “that.” Here, the pronoun refers to jyoti, “illumination.” Savitur means “life-giver.” Vareṇiyaṁ means “ultimate.” Bharga means “splendor.” Devasya means “divinity.” Dhīmahī means “contemplate.” Dhiyā means “by contemplation.” Pracodayat means “become known.”

The mantra therefore means:

Auṁ

We contemplate the ultimate source of life:
the splendor of divinity
illuminating earth, sky, and heavens.

May we realize the truth of this contemplation.

In one sense, this refers to the sun, deified here as the “splendor of God.” In a far more important sense, however, it refers to consciousness. The mysteries of gāyatrī cannot be unlocked without knowing that this “splendor” is the illuminating power of consciousness. Indeed, sun/soul and illumination/consciousness analogies are ubiquitous in the Veda and in many other cultures, as well.

Gāyatri identifies consciousness as the ultimate root of all life. It describes the illuminating power of consciousness as the splendor of divinity itself, with the divine capacity to illuminate and thus perceive everything it encounters, whether on earth, in the sky or in the heavens.

By describing consciousness as the “splendor of divinity” gāyatrī indicates that our individual consciousness is a splendor (bharga) of some original light-source (deva); The original light-source is the root-consciousness, paramātmā, and the splendid emanation is the individual consciousness, ātmā.

Thus gāyatrī has several valid levels of meaning, which culminate as a meditation on the original consciousness, Paramātmā, and its relationship to the chanter’s own individual consciousness.

Gayatri and Bhāgavatam

In the 19th and 22nd sections of Tattva Sandarbha, Śrī Jiva introduces the Gāyatrī and its relationship to Śrīmad Bhāgavatam. In the 105th section of Paramātmā Sandarbha, he returns to the same topic. The references below beginning with 19 or 22 refer to Tattva Sandarbha, and those beginning with 105 refer to Paramātmā Sandarbha.

Śrī Jīva explains the meaning and subject of gāyatrī and makes the points that Bhāgavatam elucidates that meaning and subject. Here are key points he makes showing the link between Bhāgavatam and gāyatrī.

He quotes Viṣṇu-dharmottara Purāṇa (prathama-khaṇḍa 165), which explains gāyatrī as a mediation on Bhagavān. He then says that this is one reason Śrīmad Bhāgavatam is described as an elaboration on gāyatrī: for it is the Veda’s most elaborate and intimate revelation of Bhagavān.

In 19.1 he states that the gāyatrī summarizes the essential message of all the Veda and thus it is fitting that Śrīmad Bhāgavatam, which reconciles all the Veda, should begin with reference to the gāyatrī and be described as an elucidation upon gāyatrī.

In 19.2 he quotes Matsya Purāṇa (53.20-22) defining Śrīmad Bhāgavatam as: “the purāṇa that begins with gāyatrī, to explain the topmost dharma.”

In 19.3 he explains that the word dhīmahī in Śrīmad Bhāgavatam’s first verse stands for the entire mantra, and that the phrases in this opening verse explain the gāyatrī’s meaning. The phrase, “Cause of the causes and effects of creation” (janmādy asya yataḥ) expresses gāyatrī’s identification of the supreme consciousness as the origin of everything, the original live-giver. In 105.117 he adds that this same phrase also elaborates on the gāyatrī’s seed auṁ, which he defines as denoting the beginning, middle, and end of all things.

In 19.3 and 105.120 he states that the Bhāgavatam’s phrase, “Manifesting knowledge within the heart” (tene bhrama hṛdā) expresses the purpose of gāyatrī, as voiced in gāyatrī’s third line: “may we realize the truth of this contemplation.”

In 105.119 he says that the gāyatrī’s invocation, “bhur bhuvaḥ svaḥ,” refers to the three planes of existence that Bhāgavatam introduces with the phrase, “From whom three planes of existence attain their semblance of reality” (yatra tri-sargo ‘mrṣā).

In 105.120 he says the “sunlike illumination” spoken of in gāyatrī is discussed at length in Śrīmad Bhāgavatam, beginning from the first verse with the word “shining” (svarat).

The Real Subject of Gāyatrī

The mainstay of Śrī Jīva’s presentation on gāyatrī in both the Tattva and Paramātmā Sandarbha is quotation from Agni Purāṇa’s own explanation of gāyatrī, found in the first 16 texts of its 216th chapter. The question being addressed in this part of Agni Purāṇa is, “Who or what is the subject of gāyatrī?”

Jīva establishes that many different things and beings can be the subject of gāyatrī. He quotes Agni Purāna:

By chanting gāyatrī one meditates upon illumination, life-breath, the goddess of creation Savtṛ, the life-giving sun-god Savitur, and on Sārasvatī, the goddess of knowledge who is embodied in words.

Jīva Goswāmī continues by explaining that all of these persons and things are related manifestations of one primary subject: “illumination.” The quotation continues to show that this primary subject should be the primary meditation when chanting gāyatrī:

One should meditate on “that illumination,” the supreme resplendence of consciousness.

Next, Agni Purāṇa begins to explain that the primary subject of gāyatrī is not merely consciousness (bharga devasya), but “supreme consciousness” (vareṇiyaṁ bharga devasya):

One should meditate on the “ultimate illumination” the source of all light, the supreme substance, which is superior to all that can be attained, even liberation.

Now, Agni Purāṇa addresses the question, “Who or what is the ultimate and supreme consciousness”?

That “ultimate” illumination, the highest goal, is pure consciousness beyond its lesser manifestations in sleep, dreams, and wakefulness. “Constant, pure, transcendent consciousness is the eternal luster of the Supreme Master. I am that luminous transcendent consciousness.” By meditating on this, I shall become liberated.

Thus gāyatrī includes a meditation upon the supreme form of ones own individual consciousness. In 105.141 Śrī Jīva explains that the supremacy of one’s consciousness and its equality with the Supreme Master is not meant to inspire self-worship. In Tattva Sandarbha (22.8) he explains its purpose: We must know ourselves to be of the same substance as the Supreme – consciousness. Knowing this equality and similarity is essential, because without equality and similarity it is impossible to forge an intimate relationship. Śrī Jīva explores this point elsewhere in Tattva Sandarbha as well (52 – 53.1). Here (in 22.8) he quotes the unattributed phrase “the non-divine is not fit to worship the divine” (nādevo devam arcayet) to demonstrate that one must know oneself to be divine, like the Supreme, or else one will not consider oneself fit to approach the Supreme and forge an intimate loving relationship.

Finally, after saying that gāyatrī is a meditation on all-illuminating consciousness present both in the Supreme Master and the individual meditator, the Agni Purāṇa then addresses the question, “What is the identity of the Supreme Master Consciousness”?

In 22.9 Śrī Jīva explains that gāyatrī likens the Supreme Master Consciousness to the sun, known as Sūrya, Savitur, and so on, and the individual consciousness is like the resplendent sun ray emanated from that sun. The object of worship in the gāyatrī, he says, is the origin of all luminous beings, epitomized by the sun. In 22.10 he says, “We shouldn’t think gāyatrī is merely about ordinary luminous objects like the sun. It is about the ultimate illumination, vareṇiyaṁ bharga: consciousness, which is the inherent potency of the Supreme Being.

Śrī Jīva finishes his quotation from Agni Purāṇa to conclusively answer the question of who or what is the ultimate source of consciousness.

“That illumination” is Bhagavān Viṣṇu, the cause of all causes and effects of creation. Some describe it as Śiva, some as Śakti, some as Sūrya, some as Agni, some as other gods, or as the sacred fire. But Viṣṇu is the source of luminosity in all of them.

We must meditate upon the Supreme Person, the origin of consciousness, Viṣṇu, who is the true Sadā-Śiva empowering the Sun-disc to radiate illumination.

Thus, the subject of gāyatrī is illumination. The ultimate illuminator is consciousness, the essence of sight and all other perceptions, facilitated to the tangible world through the conduit of prāṇa. Consciousness manifests in words and knowledge, represented by goddess Sārasvatī. It is the essence of life and creation, and is therefore Savitṛ and Savitur. It is the source of all light, like fire (Agni) and like the Sun (Sūrya and Sadā-Śiva). But the ultimate source of the light radiating from the self, ātmā, is the paramātmā, Bhagavān Viṣṇu. Thus the ultimate subject of gāyatrī is the relationship between Viṣṇu and the individual.

Bibliography

Satyanārāyaṇa dāsa, Kuṇḍalī dāsa, Śrī Tattva Sandarbha (Jiva Institute for Vaisnava Studies, 1st Edition, 1995)

Macdonell, Arthur A., A Sanskrit Grammar for Students (Oxford University Press, 3rd edition, 1927).

B. van Nooten and G. Holland, Rig Veda. A metrically restored text. Cambridge: Harvard Oriental Series (1994).

Rinehart, Robin (1 January 2004). Contemporary Hinduism: Ritual, Culture, and Practice. ABC-CLIO. ISBN 978-1-57607-905-8.

Lipner, Julius J. (1994). Hindus: Their Religious Beliefs and Practices. Psychology Press. ISBN 978-0-415-05181-1.

Heather Elgood (2000), Hinduism and the religious arts, ISBN 978-0304707393, Bloomsbury Academic.

Mookerji, Radha Kumud (1998). Ancient Indian Education: Brahmanical and Buddhist. Motilal Banarsidass Publ. ISBN 978-81-208-0423-4.

Hartmut Scharfe (2007), Handbook of Oriental Studies, Brill Academic, ISBN 978-9004125568

PV Kane, Samskara, Chapter VII, History of Dharmasastras, Vol II, Part I, Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute.

Tripathi (2005), The Evolution of Ideals of Womenhood in Indian Society, ISBN 978-8178354255

Notes

[i] Macdonell, 1927 § 182.1.b, p. 162
[ii] Viśvanātha, Mantrātha-dīpikā: gāyantaṁ trāyate tasmāt gāyatrītvaṁ
[iii] Nooten and Holland, 1994
[iv] Rinehart, 2004, p. 127; Lipner ,1994, p. 53
[v] Cross-caste gāyatrī use: Mookerji 1998, p. 174. Elgood, 2000, pages 32-134. Scharfe, 2007, pages 102-103, 197-198, 263-276. Cross-gender gāyatrī use: Kane, pages 293-295. Tripathi, 2005, p. 94

This article originally appeared as Vraja Kishor, The Real Subject of Gayatri, Journal of Vaishnava Studies, Volume 23, issue Number 3, Summer 2016. Used with permission.

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