THE SHAKTI ASPECT OF HINDU ‘RITUALS’

A Yogi’s perspective.

This is a guest post by Sri Guru Rohit Arya. It has been taken from his Facebook post (click to go to original post) and shared here with his permission. 

One of the regular observations made of Hinduism is that it has ‘too many rituals.’ In school, our history books assure us that one of the virtues of reformers was that they did not like ‘meaningless rituals.’ Well the ‘historians’ who write such muck are fools. Even the word Ritual is a package that contains so many processes operating at so many different levels. Homam, Yagya, Puja, Japam, Sankirtanam, Antiyeshti, Namakaranam, Prayaschitam, they are all saddled with the inadequacy of the word ‘ritual’. Samskaras seem a better all purpose word, – “putting together, making perfect, getting ready, to prepare”, or “a sacred or sanctifying ceremony” – and “puja vidhi” for all processes connected with worship and working with Shakti seems more appropriate.

Before we get into this business of puja vidhi something vital about Shakti and spirituality needs to be understood. It is something that the average English educated Hindu of today does not comprehend, but unless it is grasped we can’t move forward. So here goes.

Spirituality and Shakti cannot be found on the physical plane. By its very nature, its intrinsic setting, it belongs to a higher vibration or a different dimension. It is an intense and refined energy which cannot be found in the denseness of embodiment. All such processes are, at their core, systems and methods to access Shakti which can transform people. We reach UP-wards to access this Force, and then, after a while, it ignites within you and then things go much better. {Within does not mean the physical body} This does not mean the need to keep drawing Shakti stops, very far from it. The more Shakti you have the more you can mainline. But this concept is vital to grasp. If you cannot get on board with this, then indeed you are better off writing lies in books about ‘meaningless rituals’. In his extraordinary new book on the Vedic Yagna, titled Ardor, Roberto Callaso has spelt it out – “If one wants to talk about anything religious, some kind of relation has to be established with the invisible. There has to be a recognition of powers situated over and beyond social order. Social order itself must seek to establish some relations with that invisible.

People who have no experience or even basic comprehension of Shakti nevertheless feel they can comment on it.

The great, even incredible, thing about how samskaras and pujas were constructed and transmitted in Yogic culture is that even if the person doing the ritual has no to very little idea what is going on, as long as it is being done Correctly the Shakti flows. This really takes some getting used to.

All pujas and homams and so on, they are all methodologies to build up Shakti in double quick time and then release it into the surroundings. I was impelled to write this after reading that dishonest hit job on Gurus by some Kang lady in her book. At one point Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev explains to her that the Saptarishi puja in Kashi is amazing … “when the priests performed the ritual I was amazed… the stacks and stacks of energy they built, these Brahmin guys who only live for money” He is absolutely right but the author could not comprehend what an opportunity she was given by Fate and she let it go, instead of learning something valuable, because there is “disturbing amount of ritual” at Isha Foundation. This is how people miss the Avasaram, the karmic moment of possibility, the chance to evolve.

It is so in any good temple and with any good samskara. I have so many personal experiences of just that. Chidambaram temple is unique in that it does six abhiskhekams a day instead of the normal one or two – 4 in the morning till 10 at night with just 3 hours off in the middle of day.

And Chidambaram is an incredible Kshetram, the supreme Kshetram, because of that. The priests change each day, but the wallop of Shakti that flows never dips below a certain level of potency because of the manner in which the puja is performed. Flawless execution carries the day even if knowledge and Shakti are limited. When you stand there and see the Ratna Sabhapati Ruby Nataraja lit up with camphor flames at 11 am you have seen one of the great spiritual events on the planet.

Every temple has a different Shakti setting and impact. I have seen pujas at all the Aru Padai Veedu of Muruga. The abhshekam with bhasmam that they do at Tirrutanni releases a particular sort of Shakti. The white chandan Alamkaram they do to Skanda at the shore temple in Thiruchendur is one of surpassing beauty and power. But above all you have not lived unless you have attended the Uccha puja at Palani. They create a wall of fire and sound and the whole area is flooded with Akasha tattva. I have made a famous video on this for those interested, it is on YouTube . It is akin to a nuclear blast homam, done as a puja, but Palani is really supernatural in its impact.

I recall walking into the Surya Shivan temple, Shiva as Surya in murti form, at evening Deeparadhana and it was like being kicked by an elephant.

My great limitation in this life is my lack of interest in developing the accuracy needed to transmit such processes. I practice and teach a yogic process which makes me a living havan kunda so the shakti of any process is instantly accessed. I can walk into almost any puja and figure out what is going on at the Shakti level. But when you need to teach and transmit these things great skill is needed to do it accurately. I have the Shakti and the knowledge, but not the temperament to accquire the skills needed. It is actually a safeguard for this embodiment. In previous rounds I had developed scary levels of abilities in these matters and proceed to misuse them for stupid things – read sex and money and fame. So the Gurus have made sure I don’t go there again. I have such memories… things and procedures I have never read, heard or seen yet intense and immense details of weird ingredients and peculiar actions… well, well, we all do stupid things in our spiritual infancy….

Even the simple act of lighting an oil or ghee lamp is a powerful intervention of Shakti. It is a play of tattvas. The lamp is prithvi or earth, metal or clay or whatever though nowadays people use glass too which is fused silica so we can stretch the point and consider it earth. The oil or ghee is Jala tattva, air is anyways present and then we have to bring our conscious volition, our will, our sankalpa into play by igniting the Angi tattva. When you do that, no matter how dense your consciousness, a large amount of Akasha tattva releases into the surroundings.

When you have Shakti, it becomes a different thing altogether. My disciples think is is a big deal that the flames of homams respond to my hands and follow me. I have seen Yogis where they rise up and wash over the entire body so I don’t get any swelled head over such a minor thing. But every day first action on awakening, light the diya. I never miss that.

In one sense one should ultimately go beyond processes but to disparage and disdain them and call them meaningless is to succumb to the Asura Prakriti. Our puja vidhis were created by great rishis and unless you have surpassed them please shut the hell up and show some humility while at it.

The pictures I use. The Homam was an extraordinary Dhanwantri one at the temple of the same name in Coimbatore a few years back. I am being deliberately mischievous in showing Yogi Adityanath but look at the flames and look at the Murti of Gorakshanath. It should shake you if you have the slightest sensitivity.

The fiery photo is an example of the ‘disturbing amount of ritual’ in Isha. I bless everybody they all experience similar ‘disturbance’ in their life. The last pic is Yours Truly, Sri Guru Rohit Arya, working purely with shakti to energize a small murti. I DO NOT recommend this method. Why I act so I have already explained.

Pujas work. They are not meaningless, but power packed methodologies to evolve you. 
Sarvam Shivamayam!

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Varalakshmi and Varalakshmi Vratha

When the Sun is in Kataka (Cancer in the Zodiac), in the month of Shravana, on the Friday of Shukla Paksha (Bright fortnight) the Varalakshmi or VaraMahalakshmi vratha is performed.

goddess-vara-mahalakshmi-beautiful-picutre

Lakshmi and Varalakshmi: Lakshmi is the goddess of not just fortune. She is श्री, “Shri” “Sri” or “Siri” the consort of Vishnu and source of his power and preservative function. She is the repository of all virtue, excellence, dignity, intellect, beauty, grace, splendour, prosperity, majesty, royalty, and wealth.

Lakshmi is described and depicted as enchantingly beautiful, sitting or standing on a lotus and holding two lotuses, one in each hand. Her other two hands are usually in “Abhaya-Hastha” and “Varada-Hastha” poses. The Abhaya-Hastha pose, where the palm of the right hand is seen with the fingers pointing upwards represents “protection” and the Varada-Hastha pose, where the palm of the Left hand is seen with the fingers pointing downwards represents “boon-conferring”

Her four hands by themselves symbolically signify her divine power to grant the four पुरुषार्थ (Purusharthas) of human life – Dharma, Artha, Kama, and Moksha.

The different hues in which she is depicted are also deeply symbolic. If her complexion is dark then she is Vishnu’s consort, when she is golden-yellow, she is the supreme source of all wealth, prosperity, and happiness, when she is white and pristine, she is prakriti the all pervasive nature herself – that prakriti from which springs the universe with its animate and inanimate beings. When she is rose-coloured or peach in complexion she is the compassionate mother of the Universe.

She is also the “power of multiplicity” depicted as the one supreme goddess manifesting in different forms with eight of these aspects being most popular and depicted in popular iconography:

  1. Aadi-Lakshmi (The Primeval Goddess) or Maha Lakshmi (The Great Goddess)
  2. Dhana-Lakshmi or Aishwarya Lakshmi (The Goddess of Prosperity and Wealth)
  3. Dhaanya-Lakshmi (Goddess of Food Grains)
  4. Gaja-Lakshmi (The Goddess flanked by two elephants; the provider of “cattle wealth”)
  5. Santana-Lakshmi (The Goddess of Progeny)
  6. Veera-Lakshmi or Dhairya Lakshmi (The Goddess of Valor and Courage)
  7. Vidya-Lakshmi (The Goddess of Knowledge)
  8. Vijaya-Lakshmi or Jaya Lakshmi (The Goddess of Victory)

Varalakshmi specifically is the compassionate, wish-fulfilling mother of the universe. Two of her hands hold a lotus each and her other two hands are in the “Abhaya-Hastha” and “Varada-Hastha” poses.

Varalakshmi Vratha: There are several stories that talk about the origins, the significance and importance of the Varalakshmi Vratha:

Story-1: Shyama Bala was the beautiful daughter of King Bhadrashravas and his wife Surachandrika. Shyama Bala was married to emperor Maladhara. Once Goddess Lakshmi visited Shyama Bala’s mother Surachandrika in the guise of a poor old woman and tried to explain the procedure and importance of the Varalakshmi vratha. Surachandrika insulted Lakshmi (who was in the guise of an old woman) and Lakshmi walked away and with her so did all the riches of the household of Surachandrika and Bhadrashravas.

Lakshmi then went to Surachandrika’s daughter Shyama Bala’s house who received Lakshmi (in the guise of an old woman) with great regard and heard from her with devotion the methodology and significance of the Vratha and derived the benefits of the Vratha. When she learnt of the poverty stricken state of her parents, she sent them a pot of gold but even that did nothing to alleviate her parents poverty – It is perhaps (my conjecture) this that has given birth to the practice of invoking the goddess in a “Kalasha” or pot. Finally Surachandrika accepted her mistake and started the annual Varalakshmi vratha and regained her lost prosperity and happiness.

Story-2: Once Lord Shiva and Parvati were playing a game of dice. When the last dice was thrown, Pravati claimed victory. Shiva disputed her claim and asked Chitranemi one of the “Shiva-Ganas” to be the arbiter. Chitranemi was partial to Shiva and therefore declared Shiva the winner although in reality Parvati had won. An infuriated Parvati cursed Chitranemi declaring that he would lose his place amongst the Shiva-Ganas and live a lifetime as a leper. Shiva, interceded on Chitranemi’s behalf and requested that Parvati forgive Chitranemi as this was the first time he had uttered a lie and that too on Shiva’s behalf. Parvati relented and told Chitranemi that he would be released from the curse the day he witnessed the “divine damsels” observing the Varalakshmi vratha. Chitranemi suffered from leprosy for long. He started living on the banks of the Tungabhadra, waiting for the day of his liberation. One day he saw a few divine damsels come to the banks of the Tungabhadra and asked them who they were and when he learnt that they were “divine damsels” who had come to the Tungabhadra to observe the Varalakshmi vratha. Chitranemi requested that he be allowed to watch the Vratha. As prophesied by Parvathi, Chitranemi was cured of his leprosy.

The Vratha: When the Sun is in Kataka (Cancer in the Zodiac), in the month of Shravana, on the Friday of Shukla Paksha (Bright fortnight) the Varalakshmi or VaraMahalakshmi vratha is performed. The goddess is invoked typically in a Kalasha or pot (silver, copper, brass). A mango leaf-bunch is placed around the mouth of the pot and a coconut smeared with turmeric is inserted into the mouth of the pot. Over this an icon/image of the goddess made of silver is placed. This is followed by the Shodasha-upachara (16 steps) and Ashtottara-shatanamavali (108 names) puja. There are several videos and books that detail the puja procedure.


  1. http://www.hindudevotionalblog.com/2012/07/goddess-varamahalakshmi-pictures.html
  2. https://www.thoughtco.com/forms-of-lakshmi-1770371
  3. Hindu Gods and Godesses; Swami Harshananda; Ramakrishna Math, Mylapore, Chennai
  4. Sampradaya Vratha Puja Vidhi; A.R. Parthasarathi, Dr. Kethu Ramachandrashekar; GIRI Trading Agency Private Limited.

 

 

Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount – Beatitudes-1 & 2 – A Hindu/Sanatana Dharma perspective (2)

bible-2461826_1920

In the first post on “The Sermon on the Mount” the context and the setting was discussed. It was also speculated and postulated that recent evidence seems to suggest that Jesus must have been inspired by Hindu and Buddhist philosophies – the pre-eminent religions of the time.

In this the second post on the “Sermon on the Mount” the first beatitude is taken up.

The first 9 lines of the sermon are known as the “Beatitudes”  because each sentence begins with “Blessed” derived from the Latin root “Beatus” meaning “Blessed

In talking about the beatitudes, it was highlighted (in the first post) how these are the exact opposites of the “Ten Commandants” revealed/given to Moses on Mount Sinai in the old testament in the “Book of Exodus”

St. Gregory of Nyssa says: “Beatitude is a possession of all things held to be good, from which nothing is absent that a good desire may want. Perhaps the meaning of beatitude may become clearer to us if it is compared with its opposite. Now the opposite of beatitude is misery. Misery means afflicted unwillingly with painful sufferings…

Beatitudes-1 and 2: As mentioned in the first post, the first two and the last two beatitudes are so closely related in their meaning that it may be a good idea to club the first and the second and the last and the penultimate beatitudes making it 7 beatitudes in all

  1. Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven {Matthew 5:3}
  2. Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted. {Matthew 5:4}

What does he mean when he says “Blessed are the poor in spirit…”? Does it mean that those who choose to tread this path must by its very nature live like beggars and wear rags? This is often the interpretation that is made even by those considered experts making the “poverty is a virtue” an industry by itself. Surely, a seer of Jesus stature would not be saying something as inane and banal as this. And, where is this “Kingdom of Heaven“? – is it up in the clouds where one will be ushered in by St. Peter, the gatekeeper of the pearly gates of heaven ?

Let us examine the second question first – “Where is this “Kingdom of Heaven?” To get an answer to this question, one only needs to look within the same sermon to when Jesus talks about “how one should pray to our father in heaven” He did not approve of any show and pomp in prayer. In fact he considered these people hypocrites. Look at the verses below:

And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites [are:] for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may
be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward {Matthew 6:5} .  But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly {Matthew 6:6}.

Now where is this closet that he refers to? Is it a cupboard or a small room, or a secret hiding place where you shut yourself up and pray? No, what he is referring to is the “Heart” which is the spiritual center in the human being. The spiritual consciousness dwells in the heart, the brain is but the repository of intellectual consciousness. That is why the Head is “Rational” and the Heart “Emotional” 

All progress in the spiritual realm happens when there is at first a descent from the ego-center of the brain into the spiritual center of the heart followed by an ascent again into the higher echelons of the spiritual sphere.

That the heart is the spiritual center of the “Atman” is well established in Hindu/Sanatana Dharma.

In the Katha Upanishad {1-2-20} Yama, the lord of death tells Nachiketa:
अणोरणीयान्महतो महीयानात्मास्य जन्तोर्निहितो गुहायां । (1)
The “Self” or the “Atman” is tinier than the tiniest and subtler than the subtlest; greater than the greatest; larger than the largest… This “Self” is hidden/lodged in a “Cave” (Guhaayam) of the being – “The Heart”

The Svetaswatara Upanishad also clearly points to the heart being the seat of the “inner self

Svetashwara upanishad
Swami Tyagisananda (2)

The Prasna Upanishad is even more direct when it says: “This atman that dwells in the heart…

Prasna-upanishad
Swami Sharvananda (3)

In his book “All about Soul” Madhava (4) points to several other references including the one in “Yogachudamani Upanishad” which says “In the great Chakra of twelve petals… the soul whirls round and round.” a clear reference to the “Anahata Chakra of 12 petals corresponding to the level of the heart.

Therefore when Jesus says “when thou prayest, enter into thy closet…” he is referring to the “closet of the Heart” i.e. a descent from the ego-centered brain to the emotional center in the Heart and the “Kingdom of Heaven…” is the realization of the divinity of the “Self” within.

And what does it mean to be “poor in spirit?” The operative phrase is “…in spirit” – It is an inner renunciation of the attachment to all things “material” and “ephemeral” You can have all the possessions in the world but so long as you are not “attached” you are spiritually free. King Janaka of Mithila was one such Raja Yogi who remained unattached and calm despite the pressures of running a kingdom and possessing wealth. Krishna was another who remained untouched despite being in the midst of wealth and political intrigue.

As long as a person remains attached to any possession – material, mental, or emotional that dominates his/her consciousness he/she remains “poor in spirit” To be poor in spirit is to possess the humility to know that all these possessions are but ephemeral, temporary, and fleeting.

Sankara also in his Vivekachudamani says “The first step to liberation is the extreme aversion to all perishable things…” and it is this poverty that Jesus is referring to

vivekachudamani
Swami Madhavananda (5)

And who are the mourners? They are those that yearn for the realization of the divinity within – that “Kingdom of Heaven” within. It is these who find comfort in the the realization of the divinity within…


  1. https://www.wisdomlib.org/hinduism/book/katha-upanishad-shankara-bhashya/d/doc145197.html
  2. Svetaswataropanisad by Swami Tyagisananda; Sri Ramakrishna Math, Mylapore, Madras; 1949
  3. Prasna Upanishad by Swami Sharvananda; Sri Ramakrishna Math, Mylapore, Madras; 1922
  4. All About Soul. Madhava. First Edition. Pai and Company. Master Printers. Kochi. 
  5. Vivekachudamani of Sri Sankaracharya by Swami Madhavananda; The Advaita Ashrama, Mayavati. Almora Himalayas; 1921.

 

 

Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount – A Hindu/Sanatana Dharma perspective – deeper aspects of what he said (1)

Sermon on the MountCopenhagen Church Alter Painting

This post comes after a relatively long hiatus and it also goes against the grain when it comes to the type of posts I have written to date. I have for long been fascinated by St. Matthew’s account of “The sermon on the mount” having first read it when I was still in school.  In talking about the teachings of Jesus and more specifically the “Sermon on the Mount” one wonders how he arrived at a set of teachings that run completely contrary to the prevalent teachings of the time in that part of the world – The Ten Commandments. It is quite clear that he could not have arrived at these in the synagogues he prayed in during his first 12 years of life.

What Jesus taught were the exact opposites of the “negative” commandments which were essentially  a set of “don’ts” – “Thou shall not…” Therefore the question – Was he influenced by the teachings of Hinduism and/or Buddhism the dominant religions of the time? is a valid and relevant question

There is also the question of the “missing years” of what Jesus did and where he went or lived during the 18 years between age 12 and 30. After a reference to Jesus being baptized by the wandering, eccentric minstrel “John the Baptist” whose food was “Locusts and wild honey” there is a long and unexplained gap before Jesus appears again when he fasts for 40 days and nights, is tempted by “evil”, prevails, attains enlightenment, and leads the multitudes up the mount of olives to preach – this was when he was 30, just three years before his gruesome death. Where was he and what did he do in the interim remains a mystery.

There has been much speculation that Jesus spent his “missing” years in India. This speculation is now congealing into fact – You can read about it here and watch a BBC video here.

Another documentary by the Government of India hints at Jesus in Kashmir “The story of the life of Isah

Anecdotal, circumstantial, and even recorded information clearly point to Jesus having been in India and or at least having been influenced either by Buddhist or Hindu philosophical thought or more likely both. These speculations add to the mystery of the person called Jesus and his definitive teachings summarized in “The Sermon on the Mount”

There are several other reasons for my fascination with this “Sermon on the Mount”:

  1. This sermon stands out from the rest of what appears in the Bible both in the old and new testaments in terms of its directness, brevity, and pithiness
  2. It embodies in a sense the entire essence of all that Jesus wanted to say and share coming as it did soon after his 40-day/night “fast” that led to his “realization”
  3. It is also a defining moment in the life of Jesus – it was in all probability an event that occurred in 30 CE just three years before his gruesome death
  4. While a lot of western authors have read and written about Hinduism/Sanatana Dharma, the reverse of Hindus writing or commenting about other religions is a rarity. There are exceptions – Eknath Easwaran’s commentaries or Swami Prabhavananda’s (Ramakrishna Math) brilliant book “The Sermon on the Mount, according to Vedanta” – These however remain exceptions and in today’s times the need to study other religions and make comparative commentaries is an urgent need.
  5. For too long the Christian church has interpreted these lines literally when a deeper reading and analysis of the sermon show that Jesus was speaking from a high philosophical plane much removed from the one we live on.
  6. This (point-5 above) is perhaps why he resorted to parables and such in his subsequent teachings – he was perhaps bringing it down a few notches to serve the needs of those who had not reached the exalted plane he had.
  7. Finally, I am also of the opinion that a “grounding” in the tenets of Sanatana Dharma/Hinduism provides one with the flexibility to view all religions objectively – It is the only religion that considers and accepts all other religions to be true

This is going to be a series of posts on the sermon interpreted from a Sanatana Dharma/vedantic perspective or more simply an attempt to delve deeper into what he could have actually meant when he said what he said.

Right at the beginning of this sermon Jesus lists what are popularly called the “Beatitudes” which are the condensed essence of his teachings or in other words the goals that one can attain when he/she sets out on the path to enlightenment. These are 9 in number but can be reduced to 7 because the first two (1 & 2) and then the last two (8 & 9) are so closely related in terms of the message they convey that they can be treated as one.

Just before this momentous event when Jesus leads the multitudes up the mount, he had fasted for 40 days and 40 nights and was sorely “tempted of the “devil” who offered him “all the kingdoms of the world” and the “glory (associated) of them”

Who is this devil? Is he the satan of the Bible? Or is it someone or something else? As Paul Brunton says “The devil then as now is that adverse element in nature that seeks to keep man’s consciousness imprisoned in the lower form of nature… as our experiences increase we gain more understanding of the forces which are at work… and as we understand them we can consciously take our stand and work out our… full liberation”

In an earlier post in discussing the story of “The Churning of the Ocean” I had referred to the constant fight within each human being between the forces of evil/dark forces – the Asuras, and the forces of Light – the Devas. This is the satan of the bible and this is what Jesus strived against too in his Quest for enlightenment.

The 9 beatitudes are listed below and as mentioned earlier and as is evident 1 & 2 as well as 8 & 9 can be clubbed together which would make it 7 beatitudes in all and each one would be taken up in the subsequent posts to delve into their deeper meaning and also examine them in the light of Sanatana Dharma/Hinduism.

  1. Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

  2. Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.

  3. Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.

  4. Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.

  5. Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.

  6. Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.

  7. Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.

  8. Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

  9. Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.


 

References:

  1. Picture credit: http://www.theology21.com/2011/06/30/sermon-on-the-mount-why-the-law-according-to-jesus-is-impossible-to-follow/
  2. The Mystery of the Kingdom of Heaven (Chapter) in “The Inner Reality” by Paul Brunton. July 1952. Anchor Press. Great Britain.
  3. The Holy Bible published by the Trinitarian Bible Society
  4. The King James Version of the Bible. Published January 2004. 

 

Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount – A Hindu/Sanatana Dharma perspective – deeper aspects of what he said (1)

Sermon on the MountCopenhagen Church Alter Painting
Photo Courtesy: Theology 21*

This post comes after a relatively long hiatus and it also goes against the grain when it comes to the type of posts I have written to date. I have for long been fascinated by St. Matthew’s account of “The sermon on the mount” having first read it when I was still in school.  In talking about the teachings of Jesus and more specifically the “Sermon on the Mount” one wonders how he arrived at a set of teachings that run completely contrary to the prevalent teachings of the time in that part of the world – The Ten Commandments. It is quite clear that he could not have arrived at these in the synagogues he prayed in during his first 12 years of life.

What Jesus taught were the exact opposites of the “negative” commandments which were essentially  a set of “don’ts” – “Thou shall not…” Therefore the question – Was he influenced by the teachings of Hinduism and/or Buddhism the dominant religions of the time? is a valid and relevant question

There is also the question of the “missing years” of what Jesus did and where he went or lived during the 18 years between age 12 and 30. After a reference to Jesus being baptized by the wandering, eccentric minstrel “John the Baptist” whose food was “Locusts and wild honey” there is a long and unexplained gap before Jesus appears again when he fasts for 40 days and nights, is tempted by “evil”, prevails, attains enlightenment, and leads the multitudes up the mount of olives to preach – this was when he was 30, just three years before his gruesome death. Where was he and what did he do in the interim remains a mystery.

There has been much speculation that Jesus spent his “missing” years in India. This speculation is now congealing into fact – You can read about it here and watch a BBC video here.

Another documentary by the Government of India hints at Jesus in Kashmir “The story of the life of Isah

Anecdotal, circumstantial, and even recorded information clearly point to Jesus having been in India and or at least having been influenced either by Buddhist or Hindu philosophical thought or more likely both. These speculations add to the mystery of the person called Jesus and his definitive teachings summarized in “The Sermon on the Mount”

There are several other reasons for my fascination with this “Sermon on the Mount”:

  1. This sermon stands out from the rest of what appears in the Bible both in the old and new testaments in terms of its directness, brevity, and pithiness
  2. It embodies in a sense the entire essence of all that Jesus wanted to say and share coming as it did soon after his 40-day/night “fast” that led to his “realization”
  3. It is also a defining moment in the life of Jesus – it was in all probability an event that occurred in 30 CE just three years before his gruesome death
  4. While a lot of western authors have read and written about Hinduism/Sanatana Dharma, the reverse of Hindus writing or commenting about other religions is a rarity. There are exceptions – Eknath Easwaran’s commentaries or Swami Prabhavananda’s (Ramakrishna Math) brilliant book “The Sermon on the Mount, according to Vedanta” – These however remain exceptions and in today’s times the need to study other religions and make comparative commentaries is an urgent need.
  5. For too long the Christian church has interpreted these lines literally when a deeper reading and analysis of the sermon show that Jesus was speaking from a high philosophical plane much removed from the one we live on.
  6. This (point-5 above) is perhaps why he resorted to parables and such in his subsequent teachings – he was perhaps bringing it down a few notches to serve the needs of those who had not reached the exalted plane he had.
  7. Finally, I am also of the opinion that a “grounding” in the tenets of Sanatana Dharma/Hinduism provides one with the flexibility to view all religions objectively – It is the only religion that considers and accepts all other religions to be true

This is going to be a series of posts on the sermon interpreted from a Sanatana Dharma/vedantic perspective or more simply an attempt to delve deeper into what he could have actually meant when he said what he said.

Right at the beginning of this sermon Jesus lists what are popularly called the “Beatitudes” which are the condensed essence of his teachings or in other words the goals that one can attain when he/she sets out on the path to enlightenment. These are 9 in number but can be reduced to 7 because the first two (1 & 2) and then the last two (8 & 9) are so closely related in terms of the message they convey that they can be treated as one.

Just before this momentous event when Jesus leads the multitudes up the mount, he had fasted for 40 days and 40 nights and was sorely “tempted of the “devil” who offered him “all the kingdoms of the world” and the “glory (associated) of them”

Who is this devil? Is he the satan of the Bible? Or is it someone or something else? As Paul Brunton says “The devil then as now is that adverse element in nature that seeks to keep man’s consciousness imprisoned in the lower form of nature… as our experiences increase we gain more understanding of the forces which are at work… and as we understand them we can consciously take our stand and work out our… full liberation”

In an earlier post in discussing the story of “The Churning of the Ocean” I had referred to the constant fight within each human being between the forces of evil/dark forces – the Asuras, and the forces of Light – the Devas. This is the satan of the bible and this is what Jesus strived against too in his Quest for enlightenment.

The 9 beatitudes are listed below and as mentioned earlier and as is evident 1 & 2 as well as 8 & 9 can be clubbed together which would make it 7 beatitudes in all and each one would be taken up in the subsequent posts to delve into their deeper meaning and also examine them in the light of Sanatana Dharma/Hinduism.

  1. Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

  2. Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.

  3. Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.

  4. Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.

  5. Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.

  6. Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.

  7. Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.

  8. Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

  9. Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.


 

References:

  1. Picture credit: http://www.theology21.com/2011/06/30/sermon-on-the-mount-why-the-law-according-to-jesus-is-impossible-to-follow/
  2. The Mystery of the Kingdom of Heaven (Chapter) in “The Inner Reality” by Paul Brunton. July 1952. Anchor Press. Great Britain.
  3. The Holy Bible published by the Trinitarian Bible Society
  4. The King James Version of the Bible. Published January 2004. 

 

The four Vedas – Saama Veda

The word “Saama” is derived from the Sanskrit root “साम” which means to “appease”, “soothe”, “calm”, comfort”, “conciliate”. The word

Saama-veda-murthy
Saama Veda Murthy

Saama” therefore means “that which soothes and relaxes the mind and promises peace.

The Saama Veda contains “Riks” i.e. verses/shlokas from the Rig Veda set to music. In chanting the Rig Veda one would chant the mantras with the udaatta (upward swara) and the anudhaatta (downward swara). In chanting the Saama Veda the same “Rik” would be “sung” with an elongated swara.

The Saama Veda / Saama Gaana is considered to be the source of the Sapta (seven) Swaras (notes) of Indian Classical Music. In Yajnas, one designated priest called the “Udgaata” who chants the Saama Veda to propitiate the Gods and ensure their grace.

The musical rendition and the elongated notes when chanted in sequence and with the proper diction has a calming influence on the mind and is extremely conducive to the spiritual evolution of the self – It is because of this virtue of the Saama Veda, that Shri Krishna declared in the Bhagavad Gita “Amongst the Vedas, I am Saama Veda“.

In the Lalitha Sahasranaama Stotra, which literally means the “1,000 names of the divine mother” one of the names given to her is “Saama-Gaana-Priya” – “She who is pleased/propitiated by the recitation of Saama Veda

Watch the YouTube video below showing the brain activity of a 26 year old man, while listening to Saama Veda chanting with his eyes closed [Red indicates brain activation and Blue indicates deactivation] – it is interesting to note how, even with eyes closed, the Visual Cortex lights up


References:

  1. Brain activity video: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCbDdmTlTwoCUx2p7nScbUCw (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DX11bBpuKlU)
  2. Deivathin Kural Volume-2; Vanathi Publications; 2016 edition/Reprint
  3. The Vedas – Sri Chandrashekarendra Saraswathi; Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan; 2014.
  4. Sama Veda Murthy: http://www.reocities.com/venkatharihara/Vedas.html

Disclaimer: Copyright with regard to images / videos rests with the owner/creator and are not being used for any commercial purpose.

The four Vedas – Yajurveda

yajurveda

The word “Yajus” is derived from the Sanskrit root “Yaj” which means “prayer” or “worship”. The word “Yajna” is also derived from this very root. We saw in the earlier post (click here) on the Rig Veda that the word “Rig” is derived from “Rik” which means a hymn or shloka.

The Yajur Veda systematizes the hymns of the Rig Veda (Riks) into a practical and practicable form – yajnas and procedures of worship and prayer. In summary, that which is chanted in Rig Veda is performed via Yajur Veda.

The two main branches of the Yajur Veda (there are many, as we have seen in an earlier post Click to read) are Shukla Yajur Veda and Krishna Yajur Veda (Shukla = White and Krishna = Black). The Shukla Yajur Veda Samhita is also known as the Vajasaneyi Samhita.

“Vaajasani” is one of the names of the “Sun-god”. There is an interesting story connected to this name and how it came about. When Veda Vyasa finished compiling and collating the Vedas into four, Yajur Veda had only one branch/version – he taught this Yajur Veda to Sage Vaisampayana who in turn taught it to Sage Yajnavalkya. There was a falling out between Teacher and pupil and Sage Vaisampayana ordered that Yajnavalkya must return all the knowledge (of the Yajurveda) back to him, essentially robbing Yajnavalkya of the right to propagate the knowledge of the Yajur Veda to others.

Sage Yajnavalkya not one to take things lying down meditated on the Supreme deity embodied as the Sun (Surya) god and came up with his own version of the Yajur Veda which came to be know as the Shukla Yajur Veda or the Vajasaneyi Samhita. Since Yajnavalkya’s Yajur Veda came to be known as Shukla Yajur Veda, Vaisampayana’s came to be known as Krishna Yajur Veda.

The Yajur Veda provides procedural and explanatory details of the Vedic Karmas and rituals including Somayaga, Darsha Poornamasas, Vaajapeya, Rajasuya, and Ashwamedha.

Most importantly the Sri Rudram in vogue today is the one present in the Yajur Veda. Although a few suktas from the Rudram are present in the Rig and Saama Veda as well, the Sri Rudram in vogue today and that which is chanted, only refers to the one in the Yajur Veda.

It is because of this that the great Saivite saint Appayya Dikshitar lamented that he should have been born in the Yajur Veda instead of the Saama Veda.

Similarly the Purusha Sukta present in the Rig Veda is also present in the Yajur Veda with minor differences between the two versions. However, when the Purusha Sukta is mentioned, it refers only to the version in the Yajur Veda.

Yajur Veda also holds a special significance for the followers of the Advaita philosophy (non-dualism). As per Sanatana Dharma, any Siddhanta (philosophy), should contain:

  1. A Sutra (Aphorism, definition)
  2. A Bhaashya (Commentary)
  3. A Vaartika (Explanatory notes, clearer and expanded elucidation of the sutra and the Bhaashya)

Sureshwaraacharya, a direct disciple of Adi Sankaracharya wrote the Vaartika  i.e. explanatory notes on the Bhaashya i.e. commentary written by Sankara on two of the Upanishads pertaining to the Krishna Yajurveda – The Taitrriya Upanishad and the Brihadaranyaaka Upanishad.

This is the reason the Yajur Veda holds a special place in the minds of Advaitins