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Sri GurubhujangaStotram - 5
AStotra on Adi Sankaracharya
Commentary by P. R. Kannan
Iswara, the Atman, is equally present in brahmana (who is keen on contemplation of Brahman), Chandala, elephant and in one's own body, as well as in the (varying) qualities of Satva (virtuousness), Rajas (passion) and Tamas (laziness and violence), and is also beyond and untouched by those qualities. Obeisance to you, who are that Atman, who is ever free from taint. (81)
Bhagavan Krishna says in Gita:
The wise men perceive the same Atman in brahmana, rich in knowledge and humility, cow, elephant, dog and dog-eating outcaste. (5.18)
That which someone talks of as a marvel, another hears of it as a marvel, the man of tranquility knows; the man, who has no tranquility, does not know; even after knowing, someone directly experiences his own existence as none other than that Chit, Pure Awareness. Obeisance to you, who are that Awareness, which is taught (to qualified aspirants) by you. (82)
Bhagavan Krishna makes a similar statement in Gita (2.29). Till one gets actual experience of Atman, it remains hearsay and subject of wonder. Bhagavan states clearly in Gita that tranquility results only after senses are controlled and intellect is directed to contemplate with concentration on Atman and that the bliss of Atman is experienced only by such a man of tranquility. Even in the path of Gnana, the third stage of 'Nididhyasana' means assimilation by deep contemplation. It comes after 'Sravana', listening of teaching from Guru, and 'Manana', reflection and ascertainment by clearing of doubts. Adi Sankaracharya emphasises the need for immediate knowledge in a telling verse in 'VivekaChudamani':
"A disease is not cured by merely uttering the name of the medicine and without actually taking it. Without direct realisation, by a mere utterance of the word 'Brahman', none can be liberated." (64)
The lords of Devas and Daityas (Indra and Virochana) heard the science of Atman from Brahma four times. One of them (Virochana) still did not know, but the other (Indra) knew. Obeisance to you, who are that Atman, who is beyond debate. (83)
Chandogya Upanishad (8.7) tells the story of how Virochana and Indra approached Brahma for getting the knowledge of Atman. Virochana returned satisfied after the first visit that the body is indeed Atman. He taught accordingly to Daityas, who became thorough materialists. Indra went to Brahma four times and finally gained the true knowledge of Atman that Atman is eternal and indestructible, and body is transient and given to death. The final teaching:
"O Indra, this body is indeed mortal. This is coverd by death. That is the seat of this Atman, which is immortal and not having body. Anything embodied is within the range of the desirable and the non-desirable. Surely, for that which remains embodied, there can be no elimination of the desirable and the undesirable. But the desirable and the undesirable cannot surely touch Atman, which is unembodied." (8.12.1)
Those, who are deluded owing to ignorance of Atman and are incapable of proper intellectual analysis and are conceited, talk of Atman as either body, sense organs, vital breath, specialized knowledge or emptiness. Obeisance to you, who are that true Atman. (84)
Bhagavan Krishna says in Gita:
"These bodies of the embodied Atman are said to have an end. The Atman is eternal, indestructible and incomprehensible. Therefore, fight, O Bharata." (2.18)
Some say that Atman is of the nature of multiplicity, doer and enjoyer, is omnipresent and has awareness as an attribute. Some say that Atman is not the doer, but enjoyer in some places. They are unaware of the truth of Atman. Obeisance to you, who are that true Atman. (85)
Bhagavan Krishna says in Gita:
"Actions are performed in all cases merely by the qualities of Nature (Satva, Rajas and Tamas). He, whose mind is deluded by egoism, thinks 'I am the doer'." (3.27)
Some say that the one who stimulates the jiva in many forms is Iswara and not anyone else; others say that he is not Iswara. Obeisance to you, who are that Atman, without whom Maya would not be the subject of debate and who are beyond all debate. (86)
In the last three verses, the author brings out various kinds of misrepresentations of Atman. Atman is indeed none of those and is beyond all debate. That is why Upanishads emphasise that Atman is beyond the scope of mental cogitation and also speech.
Bhagavan Krishna says in Gita:
"Actions do not taint me (Brahman), nor have I any desire for the fruits of actions. He who knows me thus is not bound by his actions." (4.14)
By the grace of Atman, when the true form of Iswara, the protector of the world, becomes distinct, all debate ceases. Once debate ceases, the jiva does not get deluded again in the world. Obeisance to you, who are that non-dual Atman. (87)
Mundaka Upanishad says:
"When that Atman, which is both high and low, is realized, the knot of the heart gets untied, all doubts are resolved and all of one's actions become dissipated." (2.2.8)
Vedas describe Atman as omnipresent, of the size of thumb, ancient Purusha. Atman resides with the size of thumb in the hearts of people. Obeisance to you, who are that Atman, who is not just of the size of thumb. (88)
Vedanta sometimes describes Atman in conflicting terms – distant and yet near, tinier than atom and larger than the largest etc. This means that Atman cannot be described in words as it is beyond the ken of words as well as mental imagination. The apparent conflict in qualities is on account of relating Atman to worldly objects, which are products of time and space. Time and space are products of Maya and Atman is beyond them. The description here of Atman as being of the size of thumb in human hearts, and at the same time, as not being of the size of thumb, is an example of the conflicting presentation of Atman. The omnipresent Atman, not limited by time and space, is what activates the insentient human body. To make this clear, Vedanta says that Atman resides in human heart with the size of thumb.
Adi Sankaracharya says in 'VivekaChudamani':
"In this very body, in a mind full of Satva, in the cave of the intellect, in the atmosphere of the Unmanifest, the Atman, of captivating glory, shines like Surya, high in the sky, illumining the universe by its effulgence." (134)
One, who is established in his true nature of Atman, focused by sages by concentrating on the space between eyebrows with the help of their intellect, which is AvimuktaMahakshetra, and by means of Sruti (Veda), would not like to go to the city of Varanasi. Obeisance to you, who are that Atman. (89)
Sages concentrate on Atman by focusing their attention on the space between eyebrows as guided in Vedas and Yogasastras. They control their wavering minds with the help of intellect, which is described here as AvimuktaMahakshetra, which means the great spiritual centre, never left by Iswara. AvimuktaMahakshetra is the name of Kashi, which is never abandoned by Siva even in times of the great dissolution. Similarly the human intellect is never abandoned by Atman; otherwise it would be dead. Intellect and, indeed all body organs function only in the light of Atman. One, who is established in Atman, does not find it necessary to go to Kashi for attaining Gnana and Liberation. The Liberation desired in Kashi is already attained by him. In a beautiful verse in 'Atmabodha', Adi Sankaracharya says:
"After crossing the ocean of delusion and killing the monsters of likes and dislikes, the Yogi, who is united with peace, dwells in the glory of his own realized Atman, as an Atmarama." (50). By a metaphorical reference to the story of Ramayana, the great Acharya tellingly brings out the glory of Atma-Vichara, Self-enquiry.
The sense of I is there for all beings in their own bodies; similarly the sense of liberation is there for one, who dies in Kashi. Obeisance to you, who are that Atman, without whose light of true nature, liberation is not possible anywhere. (90)
'ज्ञानादेवहिकैवल्यम्' - Liberation is attained only by true knowledge of Atman– this is what Upanishads teach. But scriptures state that Liberation is assured for those who shed their bodies in Kashi. This only means that Siva, in his great compassion, bestows that Gnana on the dying mortal and makes him immortal. This is similarly true of any aspirant, who is into spiritual practice. His devotion is crowned by the compassion of Atman, who showers him with Gnana and then bestows liberation on him.Bhagavan Krishna says in Gita:
"Certainly there is no purifier in this world like Gnana. He who is himself perfected in Yoga finds it in Atman in time." (4.38)
Deep contemplation of the import of lofty Vedanta texts paves the way for attaining the light of one's true nature, viz. Atman. Hence the discriminating aspirant remains established constantly in Vedanta for attaining that light. Obeisance to you, who are that Atman. (91)
In Vicharamarga, the path of enquiry, three steps are enunciated in Vedantic texts: Sravana (listening to Guru's teaching), Manana (contemplation including getting doubts cleared from the Guru and firming up the knowledge) and Nididhyasana (absorption of the truth into self). Thus the aspirant experiences his non-different, non-dual Atman in himself by deep contemplation. Adi Sankaracharya expounds the significance of contemplation in 'VivekaChudamani':
"The fear and sorrow created by the delusory serpent on the rope can be ended only after fully ascertaining the truth of the rope, which is available for recognition only through steady and balanced thinking." (12)
Some, who are focused on Vedanta, and Devas like Rudras, who talk of the principle of Atman, do not know it in truth. The aspirant therefore leaves them aside and gets established in Vedanta for knowing Atman. Obeisance to you, who are that Atman. (92)
The import is that even Devas hanker after non-Atman attainments like victory over Asuras etc. The dedicated aspirant is focused only on Atman. (The Rudras indicated here are divine beings, not blessed with the grace of Gnana by Siva, and hence not Self-realised). Bhagavan Krishna says in Gita:
"The fruit (of Karmas) that accrues to those men of little intelligence (worshipping Devas for petty ends) has an end. The worshippers of Devas proceed to Devas; My devotees come to Me." (7.23)
Devendra realized the true nature of Atman and got relieved of all sins like killing of Vritra etc. and became established in Vedanta and remained blissful, having got rid of selfish attachment. Obeisance to you, who are that Atman. (93)
Devendra committed many grave sins like killing of Visvarupa, Vritrasura and others in a stealthy manner. He got rid of all the sins by undertaking penance for long periods of time, worshipping Isvara and realizing Atman. Bhagavan Krishna says in Gita:
"As the blazing fire reduces fuel to ashes, so does the fire of Gnana reduce all actions to ashes." (4.37)
By constantly enquiring of the real nature of Atman, one becomes very pure and worthy of worship by Devas headed by Indra. Obeisance to you, who are that Atman, the bestower of worthiness of worship by Devas, and purity. (94)
Maharishis were all human beings. They had attained purity and realized Atman and hence they were all worshipped by Indra and other Devas. We find many occasions in Puranas, where Devas came down to earth and offered worship to Maharishis. Srimad Valmiki Ramayanam refers to Devendra coming down to earth and worshipping sages Sutikshna and Sarabhanga.There are instances where the lord of Devas, Indra was cursed by Maharishis too. Sage Goutama cursed Indra to become impotent, when the latter assumed the form of the sage and violated Ahalya, the sage's wife. Sage Chyavana cursed Indra to become paralysedin his arm, when the latter tried to prevent him from offering Somapanam to Asvini Devatas. Such is the power of Self-realised humans.
SrimadRamayanam refers to sage Visvamitra's severe austerities for acquiring the state of Brahmarishi. Brahma finally said to him:
"Brahmarishi! We are very happy with your austerities. You are welcome (to become Brahmarishi). Kousika! You have acquired the quality of brahmana (Brahmagnana) through severe austerities." (1.65.19)
One, who is pure himself, can alone bestow purity on another. Nowhere can an impure person grant purity to another. Obeisance to that Atman, who is sacred and very pure, and, who imparts purity to all beings, when thought of by them. (95)
"Atman is certainly not known adequately when spoken of by an inferior person; for, it is thought of variously. When taught by one, who has become identified with it, there is no further cogitation with regard to it. For, it is beyond argumentation, being subtler than the size of the atom." (1.2.8)
Once one remembers the radiance, which induces the thought 'I am only Chit (Awareness)', it burns away here all sins like fire, with tremendous brilliance. Obeisance to you, who are that Atman of such glory. (96)
Karmas are categorized into three: Sanchita, Prarabdha and Agami. Sanchita is the karma, accumulated over countless births in the past. Prarabdha karma is that part of the Sanchita karma, which is ordained to bear fruit in the present birth. Agami is karma accumulated in the present and future births. Both Sanchita and Agami karmas are destroyed on the dawn of Gnana. Prarabdha karma continues to operate on the body till the body drops, but it has no bearing on the Gnani, as he is totally free from attachment to body. Thus the Gnani is free from the clutch of all karmas. Adi Sankaracharya says in 'Tattva Bodha':
"The Sanchita Karma is destroyed by the knowledge 'I am Brahman'.
The Agami karma is also destroyed by Gnana; and the Gnani is not affected by it just as a lotus leaf is not affected by the water on it."
Though performance of holy bath, ceremonial gift etc. without remembering Atman as well as the means of remembering Atman, will destroy sins, the latent impressions of sins will never be destroyed. Obeisance to Atman, who destroys sins, once remembered. (97)
Any action, once performed, has two effects: one is, the Punya (religious merit) and Papa (sin) resulting from the nature of that action; the second is, the latent tendency the action creates in the mind, which generates the urge to repeat the act in a given circumstance. Though sin is destroyed by taking sacred bath in a holy river, ceremonial gift etc., the latent tendency to commit the same sin under a given circumstance is not removed. The latter is eliminated only by the grace of Atman, earned by prayer and surrender. Bhagavan Krishna says in Gita:
"The objects of the senses turn away from the abstinent man leaving the longing (behind); but his longing also leaves him on seeing the Supreme." (2.59)
When the light of one's true nature shines, the attachment to the sense of 'I' in Anatma (objects and experiences other than Atman) drops off. Hence all sins rooted in Anatma and Samskriti (latent tendencies left by actions) are removed; the memory (of Anatma) is destroyed. Obeisance to you, who are that Atman, the source of that radiance. (98)
Adi Sankaracharya says in 'VivekaChudamani':
"Innumerable desires for things that are the non-Atman cloud the desire for Self-realisation. When these have been destroyed by being constantly established in Atman, the Atman manifests all by itself." (275)
Without listening to the entire commentary (of Adi Sankaracharya) on Vedanta, no means of remembering Atman is available to anyone. Hence the desire to author that commentary arose naturally in you. Obeisance to you, who are that Atman, the very embodiment of compassion. (99)
Adi Sankaracharya, out of boundless compassion for the misery-struck humanity, wrote the commentary on Upanishads, Brahma Sutras and Bhagavad Gita, referred in totality here as Vedantabhashya. By teaching this commentary to disciples, he reestablished the truth of Advaita Vedanta. Without proper comprehension of Advaita Vedanta, the natural human outward propensity towards objects and experiences, promoting attachment to Anatma and disinterest in Atman, cannot be overcome. Hence Adi Sankara is hailed here as the personification of compassion. A verse in praise of him is as follows:
"The way Sankara, the incarnation of Siva, has authored commentaries explaining the import of Sruti (Veda –Upanishad) and Veda Vyasa's Brahmasutras, he has declared the correct interpretation of those texts."
Obeisance to you, who are that Atman, who bestows the knowledge of unitary nature of the Atman, and who himself incarnated as Sankaracharya, desirous of expatiating on the purport of all Sastras, and who wrote commentaries on Vyasa's Brahma Sutras etc.
Kurma Purana refers to the conversation between Siva and Parvathi on the advent of Sankaracharya on earth as Siva's Amsavatara. Siva says:
"Sankara will teach the knowledge of Brahman to his disciples. That will be the essence of all Vedanta and all philosophies."