sada at ANVIL.NRL.NAVY.MIL
Mon Jul 6 13:32:59 CDT 1998
Sankaran Jayanarayanan wrote:
>>A child puts its hands in fire to learn what it is. Its intentions are
>>quite honorable, that of a curiousity to learn. Does it not get burnt?
>I have heard this example used by my parents several times at home. But
>I have some unpleasant feelings associated with this. Consider the
>person who performs the Panchaayatana Puuja overlooking some rules due
>to circumstances (say, his mother was hospitalized) but nevertheless
>endowed with great faith. Cannot the deities that he worships (Ganesha,
>Shiva and others) protect him from any ill-effects? How can they watch
>such a good devotee suffer for circumstances beyond his control?
>OK. My question is when the intention was good and the circumstances
>made following the rules impossible. Would praayashchitta help in such a
I did not want to get into this topic, since I know nothing about the vedic
rituals nor I care to know about them since my mind is not tuned to that
With that as my bias, here is what I think for what it is worth.
Rituals are meant for purification of the mind. If that is not the main
objective and it is for securing or obtaining some tangible grosser
result such as putra kaameshTi for example (where kaama rather than
nishkaama is the governing factor) then the ritual has to be performed as
per the rules and regulations laid down by the manuals i.e. scriptures,
since for these scriptures are the only pramana. The result is the proof
of the pudding. It is like the lifting of the weights as a daily ritual -
has to be done following the rules - other wise one can get hurt and badly
But when nishkaama is the basis of the ritual then we are dealing with the
Most of the puja is recommended for nishkaama - for example the chanting of
vishuNusahasranaam - it is done with the statement - shree mahaa vishnu
priityartham .... aham idam karishye -- It is done not to fulfill some
desires of mine but for pleasure of the Lord. Since Lord is always in a
happy state, he does not need our prayers to keep him happy. - (if he does
then he is in real trouble!). He is puurnam, full and complete Then the
outcome is my own mental growth, in trying to eliminate the impurities -
mamakaara and ahankaara - In that case mantra hiina, kriyaa hiina etc. etc.
all are excused since the goal is only the mental purity. There is no
question of burning the fingers here since the result is subtler, provided
one does best within the means but with full devotion . Kartik example and
discussion pertains to this realm. As the story goes in her devotion
Vidura's wife forgot what she was doing and ended up feeding Krishna with
banana skin and throwing the pulp away. Krishna enjoyed more since what he
was enjoying was the devotion not the banana.
patram pushpam palam toyam yo me bhktyaa payacchati|
tadaham bhaktupakritam ashnaami priyataatmanaH|
He is ready to settle for any thing you give, as long as it is given with
devotion! There is nothing one can really give him since everything is his
only. What is given is only my notion that it is mine.
Hence the ritual and the purpose has to be understood correctly. There was
one drunkard who was drinking all the time. He asked the priest - sir can
I drink while I pray. Obviously the intention is to drink than pray - the
priest said he should not do that, that is blasphemy. He thought for a
while and asked again - sir can I pray while I drink -Here drinking is the
subordinate clause. Priest said of course, you can pray any time. There is
a difference in the attitude although the drunkard may be just trying to
pull the priest's leg.
Krishna says in the 9th Ch.
yat karoshi yadashnaasi yajjuhoshi dadaasi yat|
yat tapasyasi kounteya, tat kurushva madarpaNam||
Whatever you do whatever you eat whatever you give and whatever austerities
you perform offer that to Me.
In the final analysis what is offered is the ego and purification of the
If the ritual is intended for purification of the mind then do the best
within the means and with the right frame of mind since mind is more
important than anything else - bhaktyaa. Everything else is secondary.
But in the final analysis even these rituals have limited relevance. Hence
my bias. I want to end with Sankara's shlakas from vivekachuuDaamaNi:
paThantu shaastraaNi yajantu devataan,
kurvantu karmaaNi bhajantu devataaH,|
aatmaikya bhodhena vinaa vimuktiH
nasidhyati brahma sataatarepi||
and further he says:
na yogena na saakhyena karmaNaa no na vidyayaa
brahmaatmaika bodhena mokshaH sidhyati naanyathaa||
I think Vaidya Sundaram has provided the meaning for these slokas for those
who are interested. One can perform as many rituals as one wants, but in
the final analysis there is no liberation without getting established in
the advaitic teaching.
Naval Research Laboratory
Washington D.C. 20375
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