[Advaita-l] A Pentad on the Path to Plenitude

sriram srirudra at vsnl.com
Thu Aug 18 11:10:20 CDT 2011

You can start with Srimad Ramayana,Mahabharatha and Srimad Bhagavatham.As 
you study them you will know all that tobe known from Vedas,Upanishads and 
----- Original Message ----- 
From: "anselmo hernandez" <elmo_terbutilo at yahoo.com.mx>
To: "A discussion group for Advaita Vedanta" 
<advaita-l at lists.advaita-vedanta.org>
Sent: Wednesday, August 17, 2011 11:55 PM
Subject: Re: [Advaita-l] A Pentad on the Path to Plenitude

Namaste ¡

Hello everybody,

Please allow me to pose a question,

What should a foreign-outside-varnaashrama person do in order to follow 
Shankara's prescriptions ?

I have read in Brahma Sutras Bhasya that Shudras are not allowed to study 
the Veda,

and also the women and the mlecchas... in spite that there are examples of 
people like

Maitreyi or Ekalavya.

Before hand, thanks for your response.

--- El mié 17-ago-11, Shyam <shyam_md at yahoo.com> escribió:

De: Shyam <shyam_md at yahoo.com>
Asunto: [Advaita-l] A Pentad on the Path to Plenitude
A: "A discussion group for Advaita Vedanta" 
<advaita-l at lists.advaita-vedanta.org>
Fecha: miércoles, 17 de agosto de 2011, 12:37

A pentad on the path to plenitude part 1


The question of a practical approach to sadhana frequently comes up on this
List. Most of the time, we seem to be spending the majority of our efforts, 
in satsangs such as these, engaged in hairsplitting dialectics, which, while 
they do have a important role, in clarifying various positions about 
Vedanta, do little to shed light on the sadhana portion.

Put in another way - there is a lot of premature attention on "jijnasa", and 
less on "athato".

Finding a Guru and serving His feet and obtaining guidance from Him may be 
the ideal, but unfortunately for many - nay most - of us this remains 
difficult to do for a variety of practical and logistical reasons.

While everything that has to be written about advaita sadhana has already 
been meticulously covered by His Holiness Kanchi MahaperiyavA, I felt it 
might be a useful mananam exercise to put together some thoughts on this 
afresh - stemming from the standpoint of an ordinary spiritual aspirant.

I propose a short series on sadhana from a practical standpoint which I am
hoping serves as a scaffolding - which the more learned scholars of this 
List may choose to embellish with their wisdom, and I humbly entreat the 
same of them.

I am choosing the framework provided by BhagawatpAda in His work Upadesha
Panchakam, and I invoke His Grace, and the Grace of MahAperiyavA to bless me 
in this brief exercise.

OM EkadantAya Vidmahe VakratUndAya Dheemahi Tanno Danti Prachodayat.

At the time Sri Sankara, content that his avatara's brief had been 
adequately fulfilled, was about to resorb Himself into Kailasha, that his 
understandably aggrieved disciples entreated him to deliver one more final 
sermon. In response the ever-benevolent BhagavatpAda delivered his final 
upadesha in five crisp but sublimely pregnant verses - that would serve as a 
succinct methodology for any sincere seeker to tread the path towards 
acquiring gnosis and achieving plenitude.

Vedo Nityamadhiyatam
Study the Vedas daily

This is the very first madate that Sankara lists. And it almost get us clean 
bowled on the first ball.

While the pramana for self-knowledge is the Veda alone is well-recognized, 
the means to that understanding is also through the VedA is perhaps not
well-emphasized. We need to infuse our lives with the sublime resonance of 
the VedAs. How can this be accomplished in today's day and age? I feel there 
are three easy steps one can, with some disciplined effort, incorporate into 
our daily routine without unduly encumbering our perennially meager time 

First - daily practice of Sandhyavandanam. Many of the mantras in the
sandhyavandanam are derived directly from the Vedas. Performing of the 
sandhya ritual both in the morning and evening - and at least on one day of 
the weekend in the noon period as well - will ensure that we adhere to 
Sankara's first mandate faithfully. Most importantly, the Gayatri mantra - 
the centerpiece of the sandhyavandanam - is verily considered veda saara - 
the essence of all the vedas. Gayantam trayate iti gayatri" - That which 
protects - it is gAyatri alone that safeguards and nurtures our spiritual 
wellbeing. The Gayatri mantra occurs in the Rig, Yajur and Samavedas. A 
twice daily chanting of this Mother of all vedic mantras 108 times at a 
minimum will hopefully bestow on the seeker immense fruits in the form of 
adrshtA, thereby clarifying his antahkaranam to become a fit receptacle for 
jnana. On every Sunday when there is more leisure time, one
may attemtp to increase the number of chants with the eventual goal being to 
reach 1008 chants at least one time, one Sunday, every month. Chanting the 
Gayatri less than 108 times to me seems like a waste of the entire and 
laborate Sandhya ritual - I would consider this akin to spending hundreds of 
rupees on a elaborate jewelry box and then placing a small silver coin in 
it. The entire purpose of Sadhyavandanam to my mind is to purify the mind, 
and enable to dwell and contemplate with attention on Gayatri upasana.

Three important aspects are stressed during Vedic chanting and these hold 
true for the sandhya ritual as well - yadeva vidyayA karoti 
shraddhayopaniShadA tadeva vIryavattaraM bhavatIti - faith, concentration 
and knowledge. So it is important to chant with immense faith and immense 
concentration. One cannot afford to be languid in one's performance. Also 
and perhaps even more importantly it is important to have knowledge about 
the word meanings of the mantras as well as their significance - and one 
needs to be cognizant of this during the performance of these rituals as 
well. So when one performs marjanam for example be cognizant of each word 
and every sentence and reflect on its significance especially from a 
Vedantic perspective. I quote His Holiness the ParamAchAryA of KAnchi here - 
"Veda adhyayana, without knowing the meaning thereof is like preserving the 
body without the soul. Veda Mantraas uttered with
a knowledge of their meaning will lead to Paapa-parihara(expiation of sins), 
and Arishtasaanti(liquidation of evil), and pave the way to 
Brahma-saakshaathkaara(God realisation)."

Second step is a daily recitation of the Sri Rudram. In the entire breadth 
of the vast Vedas, the 11 sections of Sri Rudram is considered to be the 
most sacred. Sri Rudram occurs in Krishna Yajur Veda. There are seven 
chapters in this Veda and Sri Rudram occurs in the fourth or middle chapter. 
So if Krishna Yajur Veda is like a garland, Sri Rudram is like a pendant in 
the middle. Chanting of the rudram has been extolled as being one of the 
most potent mantras in destroying the endless and innumerable bundle of 
papas that we have doubtless accumulated from beginningless times and 
continue to do so in this birth as well - either through acts of commission 
or ommission. The Kaivalya Upanishad recommends thus : Yah 
shatarudrayamadheete so'gnih puto bhavati surapanat putobhavati sah 
brahmahatyaya putobhavati sa suvarnasteyat puto bhavati sa
krtyaakrtyat puto bhavati tasmadavimuktam aashrito bhavatya atyashramee 
sarvada sakrdva japet He who studies the Shatarudriya, is purified as by the 
Fires, is purified from the sin of drinking, purified from the sin of 
killing a Brahmana, from deeds done knowingly or unawares. Through this he 
has his refuge in Shiva, the Supreme Self. One who belongs to the highest 
order of life should repeat this always or once (a day). For our purpose as 
a seeker, setting aside two time periods during the day when one can recite 
the entire shri rudram should suffice. The rudram has enshrined in it the 
famous panchakshari mantra Om Namah Shivaya which also, similar to the 
Gayatri mantra, has tremendous potency as a nullifier of accumulated 
papa-karma. On Monday evenings every week, and on every fortnight on 
Pradosham, one can visit the temple if possible and chant Rudram during the 
time of the rudrabhishekam - this will undoubtedly be of multifold greater 

Third step is a daily recitation of our favorite Upanishad - either the 
entire one -as in the case of a short Upanishad like the Kaivalya - or a 
portion therefrom - as in the case of larger Upanishads like the Chandogya 
or the Taittiriya. Many sections of the Taittiriya Upanishad in particular 
lend themselves well to this exercise, as they are not only resonant with 
poetic beauty but also replete with tremendous prose pregnant with advaitic 
import - and serve as wonderful aids to contemplation as even we recite the 

A question may arise as to the relevance of this for women, and others 
outside the scope of the three varnas who may be ineligible for vedic 

The practical alternative is to instead find recourse in the fifth VedA - 
namely the puranas and itihasas. The GitA is said to contain the essence of 
all the Upanishads. So instead of twice daily sandhya ritual one can take up 
Gita adhyayanam/ parayanam instead. Once again if such chanting is done with 
faith, and more importantly with adequate emphasis on concomitant 
contemplation on the import of the verses, it is certain to provide greater 
benefit. Instead of Rudram, which is the nama-smaranam enconced in the VedA, 
we can choose to instead recite the sahasranAma - Vishnu sahasranama is from 
the Mahabharata and Lalita Sahasranama is from the Brahmanda Purana - and 
both are extolled as being extraordinarily potent in conferring on the 
sincere aspirant the elixir of immortality. The latter in particular is 
extremely esoteric and powerful
- particularly the sodasi mantra which is ciphered within. As an added 
benefit, the rigid procedural disciplines of niyama/ achara do not 
necessarily apply here and hence one can be unconcerned with the fruits of 
inadvertently improper process.


Taduditam karma svanushthiyatam
Perform diligently your duties
Teneshasya Vidhiyatamapachitih,
Dedicate all those actions as worship unto the Lord
Kamye Matistyajyatam
Give up all desire-prompted activity.

Since we are deprived of the safety-net of the Vedic varnashrama construct, 
we are left to think-through our ragadevsha impoverished intellects as to 
what our dharmic calling is - what is our dharma? what is the right karma 
that I should perform? The simple answer is to regard whatever roles one is 
already fulfilling as an active member of society as being one's 
DharmA -one's calling and focus instead on dedicating the karma, the 
activity to the Lord. I hence have combined the second and third 
commandments into one topic for discussion.

The issue of svadharma in today's day and age can be replaced by the concept 
of looking at one's work as one's duty. Let us take an example of a teacher. 
Now Ishwara has imparted to him, or her, skills that enable this person to 
impart education to some young minds in his school. His duty is to do the 
best job he possibly can. So what the Lord means by saying do works for my 
sake is this, and give up desire-prompted activity is: Recognize that you 
are in this place in time by His Grace. Whatever you do is for His sake 
alone. Do your best - be the best you can be. Do not be slack in your work. 
Do not be disinterested in your work. Do not be neglectful of your work. 
Why? Not because you want a promotion, not because you want to win the best 
teacher award at the annual ceremony, not because you want a monetary reward 
from a rich child's parent, but because you are doing this to please the 
Lord of All. This action of yours, this role that you are playing -
you will play because this is what is your best way thank Him for all that 
He has equipped you with, and endowed you with. And this can be of true of 
ANY job. Each one of us is engaged in something where we are contributing 
our bit to society, to the Order. And in return we are rewarded with certain 
comforts and rewards we ought not to take for granted. It is His Grace alone 
that has given us some mediocre abilities to do certain things that soceity 
values or requires and rewards us accordingly. It is my duty that I do with 
diligence as my token of appreciation to the Lord this action. This then is 
what is meant by "dedicating your actions for the sake of the Lord" What is 
the benefit of this frame of mind? The benefit is mani-fold. The most 
important benefit for me as a jijnasu is antahkaranashuddhi - my mind does 
not entertain too many conflicts. If my work is appreciated it is OK, if it 
is not, then that is also OK. If I make a profit or not, I am
concerned not with anything else other than doing the best job I can and 
devoting it to my dear Ishwara. The next benefit is - I become a more 
efficient worker - "yogah karmasu kausalam". By removing my mind about 
unnecessary anxieties and worries about my work my entire 
mind-intellect-body is fully attuned to and fixedly converged on the job at 
hand. The third benefit is as my sense of kartrtvam decreases, so does my 
sense of bhoktrtvam. Now its likely that given our present degree of 
maturity we are unable to do this consistently. "Yes, it is all very nice to 
say perform your work as a dedication to Ishwara - but if my boss does not 
give me a raise this year, I am going to stay angry for a week, possibly a 
month. If someone else, in my view less deserving, gets promoted I am going 
to be in a unpleasant frame of mind for many months. I am doing this job, 
because I do want to make a good living, and afford among many other things 
a good education for my
children, etc" In the GitA, in His infinite kindness, Bhagwan Krishna comes 
down one notch further for our benefit. He says "OK, no problem. Whatever 
you may gain with your desire-prompted actions, you get to keep - but on one 
condition - accept it not as a result of your actions, but as my Grace!!" In 
other words, develop "prasadha-buddhi". At the time I engaged in a 
particular transaction, of course
it was self-ishly motivated - i did it to gain something materialistic - but 
now that i have obtained the result - let me look at the result not as a 
result of my accomplishment, but as a "gift" from the Lord. Before I would 
pat myself on the back when I won a commendation or earned a lot of money 
and puff up with pride and arrogance, now I touch it to my eyes and say "O 
Lord, this is nothing but Your Grace, and I accept it humbly as your child." 
just as a baby would lovingly accept something from his mother. 
Prasadabuddhi is perhaps even more useful when the result is a loss, or 
worse we gain something bad. In that case also, relinquishing "ownership" of 
the fruits of our action, and accepting the result as the Lord's offering, 
helps us accomodate and accept - i did what i did with such-and-such in 
mind, but this is what i got, this is what was the result. Such is His Will, 
and I accept it knowing that this being His prasada - it is doubtless what 
is in
my benefit. I may not be able to see it or recognize it now, but in someways 
known only to Him, this will help me grow as a person, as a individual." How 
does this faith, this attitude, this bhavana, help? It makes me a more 
accepting person, a more accomodating indivisual. And an accepting mind is a 
more mature mind, a mind less in conflict, a mind less in turmoil, and such 
a mind lends itself to spiritual growth, to quietitude, and most importantly 
to contemplative enquiry.

(...to be continued)

Shri Gurubhyo namah
Hari OM

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