[Advaita-l] Letter No.3

S Jayanarayanan sjayana at yahoo.com
Fri Apr 8 01:42:46 CDT 2005

Every now and then, I have been posting some letters that I
received from a very knowledgeable Vedic scholar. I usually ask
some questions which are answered by him with great clarity.
Here are answers to some more questions, many of which have
their source in list discussions.

Earlier letters can be found at 

Dear Jayanarayanan...

Let me take up your questions. Hope you have a copy of your

(1) [This question was: "Which is more important for the
performance of a vaidIka kriyaa - shraddhaa
(dedication/conviction) or the exact procedural details?" My
opinion was that it was the former.]

You have rightly said that in any pUja or homa or yaGYa, the
subjective feeling is more important than the actual kriyA. This
I have stressed many a time. All rituals (actions) are nothing
but manifestations of our inner feelings towards an individual
or a deity. The question may be asked, "Are feelings only not
sufficient? Why the elaborate rituals?" Well! Every human being
would like to express his feelings in some way or the
other...Respect, love, affection, gratitude, fearlessness,
sympathy, kindness, wonder, etc. are all one's feelings which
cannot remain subdued for long...Doing namaskaarams to elders,
performing pUja to a deity, or a shrAddha... helping others, are
all actions following our inner feelings mentioned. Without the
rituals of action, the feelings seem barren. The actions help to
strengthen the feelings. In the same way, bad feelings like
anger, jealousy, hatred, greed, sadness, etc. are all feelings
which have to find an outlet in action...

It must be remembered that all these rituals are meant only for
the doer...pUjA nAma santoshhajanakaH karmasamudAyaH (pUjA is
but ritualistic actions which give pleasure to the doer)...

One thing I would like to stress is, please do not take the
Puranic stories literally. Please take the spirit behind them.
(Take the lakshyaartha and not the vaachyartha).

(2) ...

(3) [This is regarding the sUrya namaskaara mantra spoken of in
a previous letter as not referring to sUrya -- which deity do
the mantras refer to?]

The question should be, "Why did people adopt these mantras for
sUrya namaskara?"

The aruNaprashna, which occurs as the first prashna in our
taittirIya AraNyaka, refers to a sacrifice called the
aaruNaketuka chayana in which the main deity is ApaH (water).
The whole prashna is devoted to the extolling of ApaH, but since
agni and sUrya are also sources of water (sun being instrumental
in the formation of clouds), you find some mantras extolling
them also as they are indirectly sources of water. There are
mantras and BrAhmaNas in that prashna.

Some of our ancestors (I cannot tell you when exactly in might
have happened, but it cannot be earlier than vidyAraNya's time
~1300AD) have confused the aruNa shabda in the prashna with the
mythological sUrya's charioteer. (The aruNa in the prashna
refers to the Rishis by that name who revealed the
aruNaprashnaH). Then they must have also concluded that the
whole prashna belongs to sUrya and may have started performing
sUrya namaskaara (At that time they must have been completely
unaware of the meanings of those mantras as shAyaNa bhAshhya was
known only much later). They have started with the habit of
performing one namaskaara for every hanas (The whole prashna is
divided into hanas and anuvAkas to facilitate the student to
learn in by heart). A hanas consists of ten sentences ... Many a
hanas ends abruptly in a mantra...They stop the recitation there
and perform a namaskaara. 

There is no meaning as to why the mantras should be used in this
manner. Moreover, there are so many BrAhmaNa sentences which
never should be utilized for a kriyaa. The BrAhmaNas are not
mantras or prayers, but only some ritualistic explanations.
Performance of sUrya namaskaara reciting that prashna is not
being true to the spirit of the mantra. It just shows how our
actions never synchronize with what we speak...There are many
mantras for sUrya bhagavAn. There are two or three sUktas for
sUrya in the R^igveda. All of them are prayers to sUrya. One can
recite them and perform the sUryanamaskaara. It will be more
meaningful. Just because this practice of performing
sUryanamaskaara with the recitation of aruNaprashna is prevalent
amongst south-Indians for the last 300 years or so (I can't say
exactly), it cannot be taken as a rule...

The same thing happened with the navagraha mantras too. In the
Vedas, we never find any mention of the grahAH (planets), let
alone their prayers. Somewhere, when the phala jyotishha became
popular in our country, there was a belief that one's future can
be changed by propitiating the grahAH who were supposed to be
responsible for one's future...Propitiation means pUjA and homa.
With their abundant respect and devotion to the Vedas they could
never get satisfied without the use of Veda mantras in pUja or
homa, and so have chosen the mantras from the Vedas as prayers
to the nava grahAH. As I already mentioned, there are no mantras
in the Vedas for the grahAH. None of the mantras in the nava
graha mantras have any relation to the grahAH, all of them
belong to some other devatA. In some, you find only the letters
that we use to designate the grahAH. Only the mantra for Aditya
or ravi seems to be appropriate in the nava graha mantra. Even
there sUrya is referred to as a star and not as a graha in the

(4) [This was regarding the teaching of the upanishhads in the
Veda pAThashAlas - since the upanishhads are not part of the
karma kANDa, are they taught to students in the Vedic schools at
all? if yes, have the svaras been preserved, as in the case of
the taittirIya upanishhad?)

Among the ten principal upanishhads, chhAndogya and kena belong
to the sAmaveda, kaTha and taittirIya to KR^ishhNa yajurveda,
Isha and BR^ihadaaraNyaka to shukla yajurveda, aitareya to
R^igveda, prashna, muNDaka and mANDUkya to atharvaveda. In the
Veda pAThashalas, except in the case of yajurveda and sAmaveda,
the other upanishhads are not taught along with the respective
Vedas. Even with sAma and shukla yajurveda, the upanishhads are
not taught with specific svaras as in the case of Veda mantras.
It is only in the case of taittirIya that you find svaras. The
reason for not specifying svaras for the upanishhads is only
that more than 90% of the upanishhads are BrAhmaNas only
(explanations), they are not mantras. Only mantras are supposed
to be recited specifically with svaras. That is how the
BrAhmaNas attached to the several Vedas do not necessarily have
svaras. (Again it is our exception in the case of taittirIya
brAhmaNa). But all of them are recited in a particular way to
maintain uniformity and facilitate recitation in a chorus.

Of course, since it is all poetry, there is a metre rule also
(chhandas). We can discern a pattern in the svaras that has been
codified and called prAtishAkhya. Each Veda has its own
prAtishAkhya. We must also remember that all these mantras are
recited in yaGYAH (sacrifices) in ekasvara (no udAtta, anudAtta
and svarita).

(5) [This question was about the Vedic scholar who had won a
gold medal for his scholarship, also referred to in an earlier
posting at http://www.escribe.com/religion/advaita/m16054.html ]

If I remember correctly, it was paNDit MallikArjuna sharma, an
Andhra scholar who did his pUrvamImAmsA at the Mylapore Sanskrit
College. He is quite young (younger to me by 20 years!). After
his Vedic and shrauta studies at Andhra, he came to Madras to
study mImAmsAdarshana. All of us contributed towards his studies
and he passed out creditably. That is where he got a gold medal.
Even now he is at Chennai performing agnihotra. He is one of my
closest and respected friends even today. Such medals are given
even today to Vedic and shAstra scholars. Some of the
pAThashAlas and colleges have instituted such prizes and medals
just like our universities awarding medals to distinguished
young graduates. There are some private organisations too
encouraging Vedic studies who offer such medals. But today, the
practice is slowly dying because people are not coming forward
for such studies. Even if they came, the studies are very very
peripheral, never as deep as our elders did. Moreover,
corruption has crept into such organisations too and medals and
prizes are awarded not for real merit but on recommendations and
high connections. I can only say that the prizes have lost their

Jayanarayanan, your questions are ... amusing. Please continue
with the process. It is a tonic to me...


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