Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Arthapanchakam - 5 things everyone wants to know and should know

My respects to Swami Ramanuja and Swami Manavala Mamunigal and Swami Pillai Lokacharyar.  The following blog is inspired by Swami Pillai Lokacharyar's grantham - Artha Panchakam.
From Albert Einstein to Stephen Hawkings all modern physicists have been confronted by common questions about evolution, existence and sustenance of human life on planet earth. Doctors of medical science often wonder what death is, and why it should be inevitable. Modern Science, despite its great advancements in many fields has been unable to answer some of these questions most satisfactorily.

There are some common questions most of us seek answers to:

Who am I? (My nature)
Who is God? (God's Nature)
What is/are my goal/s? (alternatively what is/are the purpose/s of human life on earth?)
How can I achieve this goal or life purpose?
What are my obstacles to achieving this goal or life purpose?

Answers to these 5 questions forms Artha Panchakam.  Let us look at the answers given to us by Swami Pillai Lokarcharyar. (I will give the synopsis here, and discuss them in detail later)

1. Who am I?
As established in previous blogs, "I" refers to the Jeevatma that owns this physical human body.  There are 5 types of Jeevatmas -
a. Nityar - Jeevatmas that live eternally in the Lord's kingdom serving Him. These include Adiseshan (Sesh nag), Garuda, Vishvaksenar, and others.
b. Muktar: Jeevatmas that have reached the Lord's kingdom having attained Moksha from cycles of birth and death
c. Baththar: Jeevatmas that are born on earth and continue to live through the cycles of birth and death (this includes those born as human beings, animals, plants etc.)
d. Kevalar: Jeevatmas stuck in "self-experience" of the Atma
e. Mumukshu: Jeevatmas presently born as Baththar but known to exhibit keen interest in achieving Moksha and graduating to the Lord's kingdom as soon as possible.

Who is God?

God exists in 5 forms/levels:
1. AS-HE-IS - (Called Para-Swaroopa) - as He exists in His World - Sri Vaikuntha.
2. Specialized forms He has taken in other worlds that we cannot see - starting from para-vasudeva form to the forms of Aniruddha, Pradyumna, and Sankarshana, and forms related His 12 names - Kesava, Narayana, Madhava, Govinda, Vishnu, Madhusudana, Trivikrama, Vamana, Sridhara, Hrishikesha, Padmanabha, and Damodara.  Out of these, Aniruddha is the form that controls Brahma, and Sankarshana controls Shiva when respectfully performing creation and destruction.
3. Vibhava Avatar - When He walks the Earth as Rama, Krishna, Nrisimha, and other avataars.
4. Antaryami - as the owner and controller of each Jeevatma He resides in each sentient being and insentient thing that exists in existence as known to us, and existence that we don't know (beyond our human comprehension)
5. Archa - as the Lord in the temples we have dedicated to HIM, and in Salagrama silas.

What is/are my goal/s? (alternatively what is/are the purpose/s of human life on earth?)

These are called "purushartha" - meaning - "what a purusha aspires for".  There are 5 of them - dharma (Justice), artha (wealth, and material things), kama (desires), Aatma-anubhava (self-realization and enjoyment of the "self"), and Bhagavad-anubhava (enjoyment of bliss through the supreme Lord).

How can I achieve this goal or life purpose?

The highest goal of Bhagavad Anubhava.  Therefore the focus here is on the means that will help us achieve that highest goal.  There are 5 of them - Karma Yoga, Jnana Yoga, Bhakti Yoga, Prapatti, and Acharya Abhimanam.

What are my obstacles to achieving this goal or life purpose?

Again 5 obstacles - obstacles to knowing "I", obstacles to knowing "God", obstacles to knowing "goals", obstacles to knowing "means", and obstacles to knowing "obstacles".

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Visishtadvaitam - Core Concepts (Contd.)

Aakinchanyam: No Investment

The earlier part of this blog established "subservience" and "complete dependence" of the Jeevatma on the Supreme Lord, the Paramatma. These were established as its true nature. This led to the derivative concept of Ananyaarhatvam or exclusivity in the subservience.  That means, from the Jeevatma's perspective, it is clear that it owns nothing - and therefore does not have anything at its disposal to offer to the Lord in order for the Lord to grant it Moksha.  This is the most recommended approach to the Lord when we visit temples.  It is signified by keeping the hands together when performing "sashtang namaskar" at the temple to the Lord.  It says, "Lord! I have nothing to offer you (i.e everything that is mine actually belongs to you)."

Ananyagatitvam: Nowhere to go

The Jeevatma desires Moksha. It is in order to achieve that, it has taken birth as a human being, that too as a Srivaishnava in this life! Now, having established the Jeevatma's "complete dependence" on the Supreme Lord for all its needs, does it look up to any other devata or being in order to achieve the final goal? Therefore the Jeevatma has nowhere else to go, and nobody's else to seek.  This is called Ananyagatitvam.  This is signified by keeping the feet together when performing "sashtang namaskar" to the Lord at the temple. It says, "Lord! I have nowhere to go (except to you) in order to have my desire fulfilled." 

Monday, July 18, 2011

Visishtadvaitam - Core Concepts

Several Visishtadvaitic core concepts are derived from Sharira Atma Bhavam and Seshatvam.

Quick recap on SAB and Seshatvam 

Sharira Atma Bhavam - explained in an earlier blog here implies that the Paramatma, as the antaryami is the owner of the Jeevatma, just as the Jeevatma is the owner of this human body.  This may be expressed as follows:

Human Body : Jeevatma : : Jeevatma : Antaryami

The first implication of this expression is that the Jeevatma is separate from the Human Body.  The human body is an insentient thing.  What makes it a human "being" is the Jeevatma.  When the Jeevatma leaves the human body, what is left behind is an insentient thing we call corpse.  It loses its name, identity, and its ability to respond and react.  When the Jeevatma is encased in the human body, it responds and reacts to external events.  That means, the Jeevatma is the "command control center" of this human body. It is the key decision maker.  Central Nervous System and Brain are nothing but matter - completely insentient.  What make the Brain the seat of memory and decision making is the presence of Jeevatma.  Otherwise, it should be possible to correct criminals by simply implanting a good but dead person's brain into them.  Each Jeevatma is unique. Each Jeevatma, from birth to next birth, carries with it the baggage of Karma that has resulted from its deeds in the various lifes (in various bodies - including non-human). It also carries with it "Vasana" from all its previous lifes. In the present life, Vasana can be inferred from strong likes and dislikes to strange and new things - which cannot be explained from past occurrence in present life.  For example, without any reason a person could have strong dislike or phobia for large mass of water and therefore for swimming in it.

Since the Jeevatma is the command control center of the human body, every physical part of the body is therefore its "servant".  The Jeevatma commands the body to raise the hand in response to teacher's call in the class-room, and the hand-lifts. This "servitude" is the most important characteristic of the human body.  In other words, the human body exists exclusively to "serve its master, the Jeevatma".

Similarly, looking at the right hand side of the expression above, the Jeevatma is to the Paramatma what the human body is to the Jeevatma.  Therefore the Jeevatma is the "servant" of the Paramatma.  In other words, the Jeevatma exists exclusively to "serve its master, the Paramatma". This is what we defined in a blog below as "Seshatvam".

Also, following the logic above, the Jeevatma is different from the Paramatma - in that the Jeevatma is the servant of the Paramatma, it carries karma, and vasana from its previous lives. Even though at the time of Moksha, the Jeevatma ceases to carry its karma and vasana, it still eternally remains subservient to the Lord.

Now let us look at the complete value chain - Human Body : Jeevatma : Paramatma. That means, even in day to day conversation when we call a person in front of us as "you", we are indirectly addressing first the Jeevatma, and secondly the Paramatma as the Antaryami.

Ananyaarhatvam - Exclusivity in Subservience

Having established Seshatvam, the next question that arises is, who is this "Paramatma" that this Jeevatma is subservient to?  How can the Jeevatma serve its Lord, if it cannot recognize Him? Is He One or Many?  We see temples for many Gods and Goddesses in India.  In each temple the deity is referred to "Parmatma or something equivalent".  There are six agamas - each one claiming that the Universe resulted from each of the six deities!  Which of these deities is the real Paramatma, the real, primordial being from whom the Universe came into existence?

Several pramana (proofs) from the Hindu Shastras universally proclaim that Sriman Narayana is that primordial being. It is He who existed when nothing else existed.  By sheer will, it is He that became this universe using his own body as the raw material (material cause or upadana kaarana), and the tool (supportive cause or sahakari kaarana).  Perhaps, did he use the help of somebody else (one of these other 5 deities) who had prior knowledge in creating Universes? Some Sculptor?   In common occurrence we seldom see the owner of a house building it himself - he often uses the help of an architect, landscaper etc.   The Shastras come to our help here as well, proclaiming that He was the "doer" of this action as well (Nimitta Kaarana) - that He was the architect of this Universe.

Being all the three causes it He that the Jeevatma is subservient to, and to no other!  This exclusivity is referred to in Visishtadvaitam as "Ananyaarhatvam".

Swaatantryam (Complete Independence) v. Paaratantryam (Complete Dependence)

Each individual has been given "limited" independence to make his/own decisions and choose the right way to live his/her life. Oftentimes we human beings mistake this limited independence for "complete independence" and think that we are the masters of our lives.  This leads to "Deha Aatma Abhimanam" (DAA) the most serious disease in man-kind - much more than ADD, drug addiction, and even Cancer or AIDS. It is because of DAA that the Jeevatma starts thinking that it is nothing more than the human/animal/plant body that it is encased in.  Shaastras teach us that the Jeevatma has no birth, nor death. It cannot be killed; it cannot be disrespected; it cannot be violated in any manner.  All of that is because it is eternally subservient to the Lord that owns it.  However, when it takes birth the Jeevatma, the sentient being acquires "relationship with the insentient".  This event, of the Jeevatma acquiring relationship with the insentient, is called "birth". Similary, the event of the Jeevatma relieving itself of the relationship with the insentient is called "death".  The Jeevatma takes birth in order to expend the balance of karma so that it can get Moksha and eternally reside in the Lord's world - Sri Vaikuntha. However, instead of expending its balance of karma, because of DAA, the Jeevatma starts acquiring more karma through out its life-span. Thus one of the key impediments to spiritual progress and gaining moksha is the DAA - which is why it is more deadlier than any other disease in man-kind! When we give up DAA, the real nature of the Jeevatma as being "completely dependent" on the Paramatma dawns upon it.  This "complete dependence" on the Lord is called "Paaratantryam".

Sri Vaishnava Acharyas have stated that it is Bharata that demonstrated intense Paaratantryam in Sri Ramayana - He stayed away from the Lord, and carried out His commands, as His servant - with the attitude that It was HIS kingdom he was administering FOR Him! It is Bharata's example that we Jeevatmas should emulate in the present life - living away from Him physically for His task to be accomplished - for when His task is accomplished the Jeevatma would attain Moksha.

All activities carried out with the attitude of Paaratantryam do not accrue karma.  All activities carried out with the attitude of Swaatantryam will result in accrual of karma to the baggage.

Next Post: Aakinchanyam, and Ananyagatitvam

Friday, July 1, 2011

More Questions...

Question: Who Created Vishnu/Naryana?

1. Narayana - What does the name mean? Nara:  - is plural for "that which exist" - there are three things that exist in eternity - these are called Tattva-traya.  They are Chit, Achit, and Ishwar. Ayana: means "Source/Support for existence". Therefore Narayana means He is the Source/support of all that exists.  Jeevatma is Chit.  It is different from the Ishwara Tattva.  Ishwara tattva is Vishnu/Narayana/Brahmam. He always existed and created the world from his "sankalpa" or mere wish.  At the time of creation, He wishes to become the Universe and the Universe is created from a part of his own body - ie. a part of His own body transforms into the Universe.  The Tattva-traya - Chit, Achit, and Ishwara are all attached to and part of His body.

2. Vishnu: the meaning of the word Vishnu - is one who pervades everything (as the Antaryami). Shastras say, "Antarbahischa tat sarvam vyapya narayanas sthitha:" - i.e everything in existence is pervaded by Narayana.  Vishnu is the name used to refer to Narayana when stating that he pervades everthing.

Answer to the question: Narayana/Vishnu is the creator, the Brahamam, that created the various universes from its will/desire. Narayana/Vishnu was not created by anyone - He always existed, just as the Jeevatma tattva always existed along with its baggage of karma.

Question: We see Kailasa exists somewhere in Himalayas. What about other lokas like Brahma loka, Indra Loka, etc. Do they physically exist somewhere or are they merely spiritual planes?

Answer: When performing pranayamam we acknowledge the existence of 7 upper worlds - Bhoo (earth), Bhuva, Suva, Maha, Jana, Tapa, and Satyam. These 7 worlds exist physically somewhere (we all live on Bhoo). The seventh in the series - Satya is Brahma's world. The third world - Suva, is the deva loka, as far as I understand. During interim Pralaya Bhoo, Bhuva, and Suva are destroyed and recreated. At the time of Brahama's demise after completion of his 100 years, all 7 worlds are destroyed. 

That said, you might want to also know that each Universe of 14 lokas - 7 upper and 7 lower (ending in Patala loka) are physically existent. There are many such universes. Each Universe has its own Brahma, Indra, Shiva etc. All universes are composed of 14 lokas. There is a version of the 4 vedas in each of these universes. However, they are named differently in each Universe (Andam). There are innumerable Anadams in existence.

Free-will v. destiny

There is human will, and there is God's will. By His desire, he has give all of us "limited" free-will. The example is that of a CFO of a multinational company. Just because he handles multi-million dollars of finances, does not make him the owner of all that money. He has been given limited independence to take care of the company's finance for the sake of the company and not personal benefit. So there is limited free-will that operates. We have been given the choice to choose Karma Yoga, Gyana Yoga, Bhakti Yoga etc. You cannot say it was my destiny to be Karma Yogi in this life. May be by God's will I will become Bhakti yogi in next.