Monday, November 30, 2020

Gaudapada and Buddhism

The Advaita Vedanta philosopher Gaudapada has used words like “Buddha,” “Asparsayoga,” and “Agrayana” in a few verses in his Māṇdūkya Kārikā which is a metrical commentary on the Māṇdūkya Upaniṣad—this has led many scholars to suggest that Gaudapada was either influenced by Mahayana Buddhism or was a Buddhist philosopher. But this is denied by the scholars of the Advaita Vedanta school. They assert that Gaudapada is not referring to the traditional founder of Buddhism when he uses the word “Buddha.” He is denoting the knower of the truth. 

On the usage of “Asparsayoga,” they say that this term is not the same as the Buddhist concept of “Nirvana”— “Asparsayoga” in Advaita Vedanta tradition means the state of bliss that is achieved when there is no contact (no sparsa) of the senses with their objects but only with the self or the atman. It certainly cannot mean nirvana, which in the Buddhist tradition means total oblivion—the presence of the term “yoga” in “Asparsayoga” indicates that this concept is not pointing towards oblivion but at the attainment of Ultimate Reality which is the Brahman (the underlying principle of the universe). It is suggested that the word “Agrayana” (which Gaudapada uses only once in his Kārikā, in the verse 90) denotes Mahayana, a major school of Buddhism, but the Advaita Vedanta school holds that Gaudapada’s usage of the word has nothing to do with Mahayana. He means “Prathamatah,” that is, in the first place. 

Gaudapada’s dates are mired in controversy—he has been placed between the 5th and 7th centuries AD on the basis of the general consensus that his great follower Shankara was born in 788 AD. But some scholars have used historical references to place Shankara in the second century BC—if this is true, then Gaudapada could be a predecessor to the Mahayana Buddhist thinkers like Nagarjuna. In his work, Shankara has tried to move Advaita Vedanta away from Buddhism by noting the differences between the two schools—for instance, in his commentary on the Katha Upaniṣad, Shankara notes that while Hinduism believes in the existence of the atman (soul), Buddhism denies it.

Sunday, November 29, 2020

The Bhagavad Gita and the Isa Upanisad

Krishna’s instruction to Arjuna on the Bhagavad Gita at the battlefield of Kurukshetra was a revival of the knowledge that he had taught long ago to Vivasvan, the Sun God. Krishna reveals this in verse 4.1 of the Bhagavad Gita: “I taught this eternal science of Yoga to the Sun-god, Vivasvan, who passed it on to Manu; and Manu in turn instructed it to Ikshvaku.” Vivasvan was the teacher of Yajnavalkya, the sage of the Shukla Yajur Veda. Thus, the disciple of Krishna was the teacher of Yajnavalkya. The connection between Krishna and Yajnavalkya through Vivasvan might be the cause of the similarities in the teachings of the Bhagavad Gita and the Isa Upanishad. There are eighteen chapters in the Bhagavad Gita, and the Isa Upanishad contains eighteen verses—devotion to Krishna is the theme of both texts.

Saturday, November 28, 2020

Rousseau, Napoleon, and the Politics of Religion

Early in his life, Napoleon was influenced by Rousseau’s teaching that religion is dangerous since it exists in competition with the state—religion promises happiness in the other world when the state is responsible for providing the means of achieving happiness in this world. At the beginning of the French Revolution, Napoleon, then a young artillery lieutenant, wrote, “Dear Rousseau, why was it necessary that you have lived only for sixty years! For the interest of virtue, you had to be immortal.” Napoleon was as much influenced by the atheistic and anti-tradition political thought of the Enlightenment as the Jacobins were. After Napoleon acquired power, he had a change of heart. He realized that if he tried to suppress religion, he would lose support of the people and then his government might be overthrown like the government of the Jacobins was, so he allowed the traditional practice of religion. Jean Chaptal, Napoleon’s minister for Internal Affairs said: "The boldest operation that Bonaparte carried out during the first years of his reign was to re-establish worship upon its old foundations.”

On Solzhenitsyn’s View Of Communism

"For us in Russia, communism is a dead dog, while, for many people in the West, it is still a living lion.” ~ Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn in a BBC radio broadcast, 15 February 1979. 

I believe that in the West, communism will never be seen as a dead dog. This is because communism is a child of the West. It is Western philosophy and movement. It was founded and propagated by Western intellectuals, politicians, oligarchs, and trade unionists who operated from London, Berlin, Paris and other Western cities. The Western nations could avoid communism because they were aware of the nature of this ideology. They knew that communism had the potential to bring a totalitarian regime into power. 

The Russians, in the early decades of the 20th century, had no knowledge of communism. They didn’t have the intellectuals and politicians who could refute the communist arguments and warn them about the great destructive power of the communist ideology, so it was easy for Lenin, Trotsky, and Stalin to convince the Russians into believing that communism would transform their country into a paradise.

Friday, November 27, 2020

On the Navya-Nyaya Theory of Language

The Navya-Nyaya school holds that spoken language is the primary language since it is logically prior to written language. The language of gestures precedes spoken language. It is something that the humans have learned from the animals which use bodily signs to communicate. Written language enables us to create long sentences, express complicated ideas, and gain a better understanding of the meaning of the spoken words. Like the language of gestures in the case of human beings, written language exists parasitically in spoken language. 

The Navya-Nyaya philosophers accept the old Nyaya belief that Sanskrit is a divine language bequeathed to humanity by the Brahman who is the creator of the objects in the universe and he has delineated the relationship between meaning and the objects. The spoken words are merely sounds; they become language when they are endowed with meaning. This task, according to the theorists of the Navya-Nyaya school, was accomplished by the will of the Brahman. According to the Nyaya philosophers, the languages are a product of nature and not convention.

Thursday, November 26, 2020

The Dialectical Method of Hindu Philosophy

A dialectical methodology is one of the characteristics of Hindu philosophy—the philosophers are devoted to establishing their philosophical positions, but they treat the views of their opponents with respect. Several schools of philosophy have been in existence for more than 2500 years and they have always had significant philosophical differences but each school formulates its arguments after listening to the arguments from the other schools. The dialectical method of philosophical discussion proceeds through three steps, namely Purvapaksa, Khandana, and Uttarapaksa. The philosopher begins by stating the views of his opponents—known as the Purvapaksa. After that he offers the refutation for the arguments of his opponents—known as the Khandana. Finally, he offers his own theory—known as the Uttarapaksa (in some texts Uttarapaksa is described as Siddhanta or conclusion).

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

The Carvaka View of the Four Purusarthas

Out of the four Purusarthas, which are used by the ancient Hindu texts to define the ultimate objectives of life, the Carvakas (the school of empiricists and materialists) accept only two: Artha (prosperity, economic values) and Kama (pleasure, love, psychological values). The Carvakas reject Dharma (virtue and moral values) and Moksha (liberation, spiritual values). Dharma is rejected because it is based on the teachings of the scriptures whose authority, the Carvakas maintain, cannot be accepted by rational men. They reject Moksha because it entails release from the materialistic entanglements which, they claim, can be attained only on death and no one who loves life would want to end his life. According to the Carvakas, the purpose of life is attainment of the worldly pleasures. They preach that Artha (prosperity and economic values), and Kama (pleasure, love, psychological values) are the only ends that rational men would strive for.

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Machiavelli: Unarmed are Despised

In The Prince, Niccolò Machiavelli writes, “For among other evils which being unarmed brings you, it causes you to be despised." Machiavelli is right. No one respects the unarmed and the weak. The meek do not inherit the earth, the strong and the armed do.

Metaphysics is Rationalistic

Every metaphysical theory in the history of philosophy is a rationalistic system. This is because metaphysical theories are established by reasoning, and they cannot be proved or disproved by perception and experimentation. They must be accepted or rejected on the basis of faith and arguments. In the Advaita Vedanta, the Upanishadic saying, “Sarvam khalvidam Brahman neha nanasti kinchana,” is used to argue about the falsity of the world and establish that nothing exists except the Brahman which is the supreme soul or the universal spirit, and the prime mover of the universe. This is a metaphysical position which cannot be proved or disproved—it has to be accepted or rejected on the basis of faith or arguments.

Monday, November 23, 2020

The Importance of Philosophical Skepticism

Skepticism is an antidote for the pitfalls of dogmatism and cultism. Skepticism creates fresh philosophical problems which compel the philosophers to give up dogmatism and cultism and question the soundness of the traditional ways of thinking. They start taking a critical and analytic approach and come up with new theories through which their philosophy becomes richer. Immanuel Kant recognized his debt to skepticism when he said, “Hume’s skepticism arose me from my dogmatic slumber.” Skepticism is the cry of a free mind; the philosophers who outrightly reject skepticism are not free minds.

The Doctrine of Purusarthas

In Hindu philosophy, the doctrine of purusartha defines the ultimate objectives of life. The four purusarthas are: Dharma (virtue, moral values), Artha (prosperity, economic values), Kama (pleasure, love, psychological values) and Moksha (liberation, spiritual values). Most modern scholars insist that Dharma is the primary purusartha, or the purusartha which brings meaning and significance to the three other purusarthas, but the truth is that the primacy of any purusartha has not been established in the ancient texts.
In the Mahabharata (Santiparva, Adhyaya 161), Yudhishtira asks his brothers to name the purusartha which they believe is the highest. Arjuna says that Artha is the highest; Bhima favors Kama, which he insists contains the essence of both Dharma and Kama; Nakula and Sahadeva are supportive of Arjuna’s position that Artha is the highest, though they add some modifications of their own. Vidura, the uncle of the Pandavas (and the Kauravas), gives a short speech to explain the tenets of Dharma.
Finally Yudhishtira speaks—he dwells on the transcendence of Dharma, Artha, Kama, and Moksha. Perhaps because he never lies, he admits that he does not know which purusartha is the highest or if there is any hierarchy among the purusarthas. This discussion between the Pandava brothers happens after the Kurukshetra war.

Sunday, November 22, 2020

Performance of Duty is the Fulfillment

“Karmanyeva adhikaraste, ma phaleshu kada chana; Ma karma phala hetur bhurh, ma te sangostva akarmani,” Krishna says to Arjuna in the verse 2.47 of the Bhagavad Gita. While a man is free to choose the actions which he will perform, he lacks the power to determine the fruits of those actions. He is the cause of his actions, but the consequences are not in his control. It is not necessary that his actions will lead to the consequences that he desires. A moral man will not be paralyzed by the thoughts of the consequences of his actions.. He will not be deterred from the performance of his duties. The action, or the performance of the duty, is a source of fulfillment for him.

Saturday, November 21, 2020

The Crooked Timber of Humanity

"Out of the crooked timber of humanity, no straight thing was ever made.” ~ Immanuel Kant in his essay, “Idea for a General History with a Cosmopolitan Purpose” (1784). These are wise words from Kant—the timber of humanity is crooked and the proof of that is the conduct of the democratic nations in the year 2020. What have these nations not done in the year 2020 to destroy their healthcare, economy, social life, and political culture? Perhaps history will record this year as the annus horribilis. There are still around forty days remaining in this year—in forty days they could invite even more poverty, shabbiness, corruption, and hopelessness into their country.

The Fable of the Bees: The Importance of Vices

In his 1714 book The Fable of The Bees, Mandeville describes a society of bees which takes the collective decision to ground its way of life on the ideas of reason, morality, discipline, and honesty. Initially the bees seem to do well but eventually their culture collapses into a dystopia from which they never recover. The moral of Mandeville’s story is that in order to survive and thrive, a society needs not just the virtues but also a range of vices: selfishness, envy, competition, mysticism, and exploitation. The book ends with these lines:

Bare Virtue can't make Nations live
In Splendor; they, that would revive
A Golden Age, must be as free,
For Acorns, as for Honesty.

Thursday, November 19, 2020

Bhagavad Gita: On the Striving for Perfection

“Among thousands of men perhaps one strives for perfection, and among thousands of those who strive perhaps one knows me in truth,” Krishna says to Arjuna in the Bhagavad Gita. From this line, I infer that man is not a creature of pure reason (faith plays a critical role in his life). He is not born for total freedom (he is a political and social animal). He is capable of achieving materialistic perfection (there will always be flaws and contradictions in his life). The attempts of the atheists to perfect themselves have failed. Instead of becoming better people, they brought woe on themselves and on others. But spiritual perfection can be achieved by a man who makes a genuine effort to master theological philosophy.

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Hindu Philosophy of Moksa

Moksa (salvation or liberation) is not the only concern of Hindu philosophy but it is one of the chief concerns. Since the Vedic age, the Hindu teachers have been conjecturing about the ways of attaining moksa. The six schools of Hindu philosophy present varying concepts of moksa. The Sankhya school, being jnana yoga, preaches moksa through metaphysical knowledge. The Yoga school, being dhyana yoga, preaches that moksa comes through meditation and asceticism. The Nyaya and Vaisheshika schools see knowledge as the path to moksa. 

The passage 1.1.4 in the Vaisesika-sutra says: “The Supreme Good (moksa) comes from the knowledge, produced by a particular dharma, of the essence of the Predicables, Substance, Attribute, Action, Genus, Species, and Combination, by means of their resemblances and differences.” The passage 1.1.1 in Nyaya-sutra says: “Moksa is attained by the true knowledge of the means of right cognition, the objects of such cognition, doubt, purpose, instance, conclusion, discussion, debate, sophistry, fallacy, quibbling, faulty reasoning, and losing (a debate).” 

The Mīmāṃsā school insists that moksa cannot come through knowledge alone, for the individual must first perform all the actions which are good (in line with the teachings of the Vedas). The schools of Vedanta hold that moksa means being embraced and subsumed into the Brahman (the ultimate principle of the universe) and this end can be achieved by following the teachings of the Upaniṣads.

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

A Brief History of History

History is the story of the political communities which were formed through the bonds of language, geography, culture, religion, and nationhood. The term “history” arises from within the Western civilization. The ancient Greek thinkers like Herodotus, Thucydides, Xenophon, Polybius, and Plutarch were the world’s first historians. Through their work the method of recording, analyzing, and understanding the past (the method of creating historical records) has developed. 

Since the time of Herodotus, historians have been playing a critical role in the evolution of Western philosophy, politics, and culture. During the Age of Imperialism (1750 to 1940s), while the Western imperialists were conquering colonies, their historians were engaged in investigating and analyzing the past of these colonies—they produced a massive collection of books and papers on the history of the Asian, South American, and North African nations. Today people in most parts of the world understand their past through the work of the Western historians. 

I am not a fan of the West, but I have to accept that the art of writing history is a unique Western achievement.

Monday, November 16, 2020

The Wisdom of Somerset Maugham

Here’s a wise perspective from W. Somerset Maugham about the real state of the world (from The Moon and Sixpence): “The world is hard and cruel. We are here none knows why, and we go none knows whither. We must be very humble. We must see the beauty of quietness. We must go through life so inconspicuously that Fate does not notice us. And let us seek the love of simple, ignorant people. Their ignorance is better than all our knowledge. Let us be silent, content in our little corner, meek and gentle like them. That is the wisdom of life.”

The Vedic Quest for The Truth

The Vedic sages understood that certainty is not possible to man and that the quest for the truth is eternal. They believed that the truth is not the characteristic of the alienated, dogmatic, and misanthropic but of the free spirited and joyous—the ones who are ready to examine all sides of an issue. They kept their traditions oral and sang their hymns of the truth in the open. They realized that any truth cannot have the potential to become the truth until it is openly and clearly articulated in the presence of everyone who would care to listen. The ultimate philosophical and religious message of the Bhagavad Gita is revealed by Krishna to Arjuna when both were situated between two great armies in the battlefield of Kurukshetra. This signifies that people tend to discover the truth when they are engaged in performing their worldly duties and fighting for just causes. After listening to Krishna’s message, Arjuna says (verse 73): “By your grace, (my) delusion is gone; and I have gained recognition (of myself). Acyuta (Krishna), I remain as one from whom all doubts are gone. I will do what you say.”

Saturday, November 14, 2020

The River Sarasvati

The Rig Veda contains several hymns which depict Sarasvati as an important river and deity. But the location of this river is unknown. Some archeologists suggest that Sarasvati dried between 3000 BC and 1800 BC. Prof. Michael Witzel is of the view that the Vedic Sarasvati River is the cosmic river of the Milky Way which the ancient sages saw as the “road to immortality and heaven.”

The fifth verse in the hymn 10.75 of the Rig Veda associates Sarasvati with Ganga and Yamuna and some scholars use it to speculate about the river’s geographical location:

Here, o Ganga, Yamuna, Sarasvati—attend on this praise of mine, o Śutudrī, Paruṣṇī. 
With the Asiknī, o Marudvr̥ dhā, with the Vitastā, o Ārjīkīyā, harken, with the Suṣomā.

The seventh verse in the same hymn depicts Sarasvati as a beautiful woman:

Straight in her course, mottled, glistening, in her greatness she holds encircled the expanses, the dusky realms— 
the undeceivable Sindhu, busiest of the busy, dappled-bright like a mare, lovely to see like a beautiful woman. 

The hymn 7.95 describes the beauty of the river’s flow and the fertility and life that she brings:

1. She has flowed forth with her surge, with her nourishment—Sarasvati is a buttress, a metal fortress. 
Thrusting forward all the other waters with her greatness, the river drives like a lady-charioteer. 

2. Alone of the rivers, Sarasvati shows clear, as she goes gleaming from the mountains all the way to the sea. 
Taking note of the abundant wealth of the world, she has milked out ghee and milk for the Nāhuṣa. 

3. He has grown strong as a manly one among maidens, a bullish bull calf among the (river-maidens) worthy of the sacrifice. 
He provides a prizewinner to the benefactors. He should groom his body for winning. 

4. And this Sarasvati, the well-portioned, will harken to this sacrifice of ours, taking pleasure in it, 
being implored by reverential ones with their knees fixed. With wealth as her yokemate, she is even higher than her companions. 

5. Here are (oblations) being poured all the way to you (rivers), along with reverences. Take pleasure in the praise, Sarasvati. 
Being set in your dearest shelter, may we stand nearby it like a sheltering tree. 

6. And this Vasiṣṭha here has opened up the doors of truth for you, well-portioned Sarasvati. 
Strengthen, resplendent one; grant prizes to the praiser. – Do you protect us always with your blessings.

In the post-Vedic period, new attributes were added to Sarasvati and she became the multitalented goddess of wisdom and patroness of arts.

(Translations of the Rig Veda hymns by Stephanie W. Jamison and Joel P. Brereton, OUP, 2014)

Alexander and the Indian Philosophers

The story of Alexander’s encounter with a group of fifteen Indian philosophers (described by Plutarch in his Lives of Noble Grecians and Romans – the Life of Alexander, 64) was recorded by a man who was probably present at the scene, Onesicritus, the Cynic philosopher. He had accompanied Alexander on his campaign in Asia. Probably with the help of interpreters, Alexander asked the Indian philosophers a series of questions, which were difficult riddles whose answers could only be ambiguous. Here’s an excerpt from Plutarch’s description of the encounter: 

“He [Alexander] captured ten of the gymnosophists who had done most to get Sabbas to revolt, and had made the most trouble for the Macedonians. These philosophers were reputed to be clever and concise in answering questions, and Alexander therefore put difficult questions to them, declaring that he would put to death him who first made an incorrect answer, and then the rest, in an order determined in like manner; and he commanded one of them, the oldest, to be the judge in the contest. The first one, accordingly, being asked which, in his opinion, were more numerous, the living or the dead, said that the living were, since the dead no longer existed. The second, being asked whether the earth or the sea produced larger animals, said the earth did, since the sea was but a part of the earth. The third, being asked what animal was the most cunning, said: "That which up to this time man has not discovered." The fourth, when asked why he had induced Sabbas to revolt, replied: "Because I wished him either to die nobly or live." The fifth, being asked which, in his opinion, was older, day or night, replied: "Day, by one day"; and he added, upon the king expressing dissatisfaction, that unusual questions must have unusual answers. Passing on, then, to the sixth, Alexander asked how a man could be most loved; "If," said the philosopher, "he is most powerful, and yet does not inspire fear." Of the three remaining, he who was asked how one might become a god instead of man, replied: "By doing something which a man cannot do"; the one who was asked which was the stronger, life or death, answered: "Life, since it supports so many ills." And the last, asked how long it were well for a man to live, answered: "Until he does not regard death as better than life." So, then, turning to the judge, Alexander bade him give his opinion. The judge declared that they had answered one worse than another. "Well, then," said Alexander, "thou shalt die first for giving such a verdict." "That cannot be, O King," said the judge, "unless thou falsely saidst that thou wouldst put to death first him who answered worst." These philosophers, then, he dismissed with gifts.”

The dialogue between Alexander and the Indian philosophers is called Cynic in Greek and Roman tradition because the Cynic philosopher Onesicritus recorded it. Onesicritus believed that the Indian philosophers epitomized Cynic values because they practiced extreme asceticism—they lived naked and claimed to own nothing except the ground on which they stood. Diogenes Laërtius, the third century Greek philosopher, notes in his Lives and Opinions of Eminent Philosophers that the skeptic philosopher Pyrrho of Ellis was inspired by Indian thought while he was in India with Alexander. Pyrrho started imitating the lifestyle of his Indian teachers. The school of skepticism and asceticism that he established after he returned to Ellis was based on the knowledge that he had gathered in India.

Friday, November 13, 2020

The Riddle of the Rig Veda and the Sphinx

On his journey between Thebes and Delphi, Oedipus encounters the Sphinx—in order to pass, he must answer the Sphinx’s riddle: "What walks on four feet in the morning, two in the afternoon and three at night?". Oedipus’s answer is: "Man: as an infant, he crawls on all fours; as an adult, he walks on two legs and; in old age, he uses a walking stick". 

In the Rig Veda, a riddle similar to the one posed by the Sphinx can be found in verse 10.117.8:  “He with one foot hath far outrun the biped, and the two-footed catches the three-footed. Four-footed creatures come when bipeds call them, and stand and look where five are met together.”

This verse preaches that quantity is not the measure of power and effectiveness, because the more feet an entity has, the less autonomous and effective it is. The one-footed in the verse is the sun; the two-footed is a man; the three-footed is an old man who walks with the help of a stick; the four-footed is a dog; and the five-footed are the herds.

Vajasaneyi Samhita: Metaphysical and Theological Riddles

The Vajasaneyi Samhita of the Shukla Yajurveda contains several question-and-answer sessions among the priests in which metaphysical and theological riddles are indicated. Here’s one session in which the priest who is the hotr (the one who recites the invocations and litanies during the yajna) asks:

Who wonders lonely on his way?
Who is constantly born anew?
What is the remedy for cold?
What is the great corn vessel called?

The priest who is the adhvaryu (the one who manages the physical details of the yajna) replies:

The sun wanders lonely on its way,
The moon is constantly born anew,
Fire is the remedy for cold,
The earth is the great grain-vessel. 

The Vedic sage Yajnavalkya (who is dated between the eighth and the seventh centuries BC) is the founder of the Vajasaneyi branch. The word “Vajasaneyi” is a patronymic of Yajnavalkya.

Thursday, November 12, 2020

The Vedic Prayers for Power

Health, happiness, prosperity, and strength are the chief concerns of the Vedic sages. The four Vedas contain several hymns which depict the gods and humans regaining their powers through the chanting of hymns. The Yajur Veda begins with a hymn which is a prayer for health, happiness, prosperity, and strength. Here’s A. B. Keith’s translation of verse 1.1.1 of the Yajur Veda:

For food thee, for strength thee!
Ye are winds, ye are approachers.
Let the god Savitr impel you to the most excellent offering.
O invincible ones, swell with the share for the gods,
Full of strength, of milk, rich in offspring, free from sickness, from disease.
Let no thief, no evil worker, have control over you.
Let Rudra's dart avoid you.
Abide ye, numerous, with this lord of cattle.
Do thou protect the cattle of the sacrificer.

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

The Anti-Communism of Ralph Ellison

Ralph Ellison, the author of Invisible Man: A Novel, became a communist in the 1930s after coming under the influence of communist intellectuals in New York. But in less than a decade, when he realized that communism was as dangerous as Nazism, he became a staunch anti-communist. The extent of Ellison’s disenchantment from communism comes out in a letter which he wrote to Roger Wright on August 18, 1945. While referring to the American communists, Ellison wrote in the letter: “If they want to play ball with the bourgeoisie they needn’t think they can get away with it. If they want to be lice, then by God let them be squashed like lice. Maybe we can’t smash the atom, but we can, with a few well chosen, well written words, smash all that crummy filth to hell.”

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Chandogya Upaniṣad On Mind and Will

The Chandogya Upaniṣad has an account of a conversation between Narada and Sanatkumara—they discuss several philosophical and religious problems, including the problem of difference between mind and will. Here’s a brief excerpt:

Narada: “Blessed one, is there anything greater than mind.”

Sanatkumara: “There is something greater than mind.”

Narada: “Tell me about it, blessed one.”

Sanatkumara: “Will (samkalpa) is greater than mind. When one wills (samkalpayate), one thinks; then one utters speech-one utters it as names. In name the mantras become one, and in the mantras actions become one.

“These have will as their sole end, will as their self, and are established on will. Sky and earth have been formed (sam-klp-); air and space have been formed; the waters and heat have been formed, and rain is formed according to their will (samklpti). Food is formed according to the will of rain. The breaths are formed according to the will of food. The mantras are formed according to the will of the breaths. Actions are formed according to the will of the mantras. The world is formed according to the will of the actions. Everything is formed according to the will of the world. This is will. Worship will.”

(Translation by Valerie Roebuck)

Monday, November 9, 2020

Four Qualities of the Seekers of Brahman

In his commentary on the Brahma Sutra, Shankara, the seventh century AD philosopher of Advaita, says that the man who wants to gain knowledge of the Brahman, the ultimate mover and principle of the universe, must have four spiritual qualifications: first, he should possess the ability to discriminate between the real and the unreal; second, he should be indifferent to all pleasures and he should have the fortitude to perform actions without caring for the fruits; third, he should possess six virtues, which are shama (ability to control the mind), dama (ability to control the senses), uparati (ability to strictly observe one’s own dharma with dispassion), titiksha (ability to live with pleasure or pain, and hot or cold), shraddha (faith in guru and in the Upanishads), and samadhana (deep concentration); fourth, he should be filled with the desire for liberation. Shankara notes that the knowledge of the Vedic rituals and the ability to perform them is not necessary for those who seek knowledge of the Brahman.