[Advaita-l] Mundaka Upanishad

Yadu Moharir ymoharir at yahoo.com
Sun Aug 21 09:17:39 CDT 2005

My take on this is is follows:
The fire wood we are discussing is samidhaa. and as we all know they are to be oblated in the the yadnya.
One obvious reason was a routine chore for the students as part of their daily activity.
Every-time any oblation is performed it is customary to say "svaahaa" and the meaning of word may have significance implied within.
yaaska explains the expression svaahaa, which implies the renunciation of ego, svatvahava:

su aahaa iti vaa, svaa vaag aaheti vaa, svam praaheti vaa, svahuta.m havirjuhoti iti vaa || nirukta 8.21 ||

When "I-ness' gets dissolved that automatically induces humility.
The purpose of student going to Guru and staying with him was sort of equalizer of status.  Even if the student is son of a king or a poor brahmin they had to carry out their chores (duty) at the aashrama.  The primary reason to that student to go there was his desire to learn.  Thus an oblation of "QUESTIONS" as "samidhaa" through dnaana-yadnya in the presence of a knowledgeable guru must have been practiced.
That is why kR^iShNa advice - dnyaanaagni basmasaata kuru te arjuna.   Or when Saint dnaaneshvara maharaj says "teNe vaagayadnye toshave".  Thus if we regard yadnya as a process of purification then that helps us uncover the meaning of these rituals.
Just my two cents,
Dr. Yadu

"Jaldhar H. Vyas" <jaldhar at braincells.com> wrote:
On Sat, 20 Aug 2005, Aditya Varun Chadha wrote:

> Greetings,
> In "vedic times" students had the duty of collecting firewood for the
> Ashrams and for the guru's home, part of the largely self-sufficient
> economic structure of these pyres of learning. firewood was used in
> yagya as well as for cooking. A prospective student would thus carry
> firewood as "arpaN" and as a first sign that he is ready for life
> under the guru's care.

Actually this is still true today. Though I doubt there has been any 
tangible economic benefit to collecting sticks for a long time.

> Sometimes the guru might deem a prospective shishya unfit or unready,
> in which case I am not sure whether the usual was to leave the
> firewood at the guru's feet or take it back. Maybe someone can provide
> some sources to clarify this. I would suppose that the firewood was
> still left at the guru's feet as a sign of respect.

Dana means gift. It is not a financial transaction.

> basically firewood was used to signify sincerity and respect. another
> question is whether this first-given firewood was used in some
> "special" yagya for the new student, something like symbolic
> initiation. to my understanding this was not so.

As explained in the dharmashastras, A brahmachari has to daily perform the 
rite of samidhadanam where he contributes some firewood into the fire 
kept by his Guru.

However Brahmacharya in the sense of the first ashram is not necessarily 
connected to enquiry into Brahman so perhaps it is better explained in 
this way: upon "graduation" as it were from Vedic study, a man has the 
option of getting married, taking sannyasa or a third option, naishtika 
(lifelong) brahmacharya in which he continues to remain with his guru.

According to the amnayastotra, Advaitin naishtika brahmacharis have 
special names depending on which mula matha they belong to:

Puri - prakAsha

Sringeri - chaitanya

Dwarka - svarUpa

Jyotirmath - Ananda

But I don't think this is really followed in practice. Most people who do 
not want to become grhasthas go straight into sannyasa. Some of the modern 
outfits such as Ramakrishna Mission have a preparatory Brahmachari stage 
before taking sannyasa but it is obvious they are just aping the Christian 
idea of "novices" which is not the traditional concept of brahmacharya.

On the other hand, I have heard of some people who call themselves 
brahmachari instead of swami and whose names end in chaitanya or swarupa.

Jaldhar H. Vyas 
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