[Advaita-l] The phenomenon of child prodigies

S Venkatachalam chalam at thehindu.co.in
Mon Sep 25 08:09:43 CDT 2006

Sir, What are Sankara's views on jyotish sastra? Has he said anything at all
on this branch of vedanga? This question becomes inevitable now that we have
touched pUrva janma vAsanA... your comments please.
S. Venkatachalam

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Subject: [Advaita-l] The phenomenon of child prodigies

  The phenomenon of child prodigies.

Nowadays we hear frequently about child prodigies in various fields. We
attribute this to pUrva janma vAsanA. This is not a mere belief. There is
authority in the upanishad for this view. In his bhAshya on bRhadAraNyaka
upanishad, 4.4.2, SrI Sankara says: "It has been said that the departing
self goes like a loaded cart, making noises. Now, as it leaves for the next
world, what is its food on the way and for consumption after reaching that
world, and what are the materials for making the new body and organs? The
answer is: the self, journeying to the next world, is accompanied by all the
knowledge acquired, the result of all actions (karma) and the impressions of
past actions. These impressions are the cause of the initiation of fresh
actions and the bringing to fruition of past actions. When the organs are
prompted to work by the impressions of past actions, they can easily attain
skill in certain spheres even without any practice in the present life. It
is observed that some persons are skillful in certain activities, such as
painting, from their very birth, even without any training in the present
life (child prodigies). This is due to skill attained in past lives.
Similarly, in the enjoyment of sense objects also, some are found to be
skillful by nature and others are not. Hence it is said that these
three—knowledge, work and past experience—are the food on the way to the
next world (or next life) and after reaching there (i.e. taking a new body).
Therefore one should cultivate only the good forms of these three so that
one may get a desirable body and desirable enjoyments".

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