Friday, August 19, 2016

Samsara and Moksha - Karma is the Basis

Lila Vibhuti and Nitya Vibhiti - Life, aka Jivatma, is eternal. Based on its Balance of Karma (BOK) it can be traced to be living in Lila Vibhuti (Samsara or the Plane of Mortal Existence (PME)) or Nithya Vibhuti (The Plane of Immortal Existence (PIE)). Change is the differentiating factor between the two planes of existence. "Constant change over a period of time factor" is the defining character of the PME. "No Change over a period of time factor" is the defining character of the PIE.

Nitya, Mukta, Baddha - There are three categories of living beings aka Jivatmas. Jivatmas having any outstanding balance in their BOK keep circulating in different forms of lifes in the Samsara or PME. Jivatmas having Zero balance in their BOK move to and live eternally in the PIE. Such Jivatma, when living in PME are known as Baddha Jivatma. When they move to PIE, they are known as Mukta Jivatma. There are also Jivatmas that have lived eternally in the PIE. They are called Nityasuri. That is, two out of the three categories live in PIE (Nitya and Mukta). Only one category lives in PME (Baddha).

Outstanding Balance in BOK - Baddha Jivatmas presently living in PME have lived here for ever owing to the outstanding balance in their BOK. Baddha Jivatmas keep circulating within PME eternally for only one purpose - that is to exhaust this outstanding balance. The outstanding balance may be exhausted by one of the following means:
1. Experiencing pleasure or pain during any birth form in PME.
2. Doing counter actions known as "Prayaschitta"
3. Seeking Divine Intervention.

The outstanding balance determines the life form one takes during a life time. Based on the balance, the Jivatma combines with Nature to take on a "Mortal Body". At the end of the life term, the Jivatma casts the mortal body aside and takes on a Yatana Shariram (Invisible Travel Body (ITB)).

  1. If it has any outstanding balance, it travels in the ITB through Dark Highway. The Dark Highway goes to yamaloka, and subsequently to the various narakas, and then to svarga and then back to Bhuloka, based on the outstanding balance after the experience of pleasure or pain in the other lokas. While a Jivatma may experience pleasure or pain based on its deeds and outstanding balance in the other lokas, the Bhuloka is the only loka known as Karma Bhumi - one in which the final remaining balance can be exhausted. When born again in Bhuloka, it is called rebirth or reincarnation because it is the same Jivatma that has now acquired another life form in another body. It is not necessary that a human being is reborn as a human being. A human Jivatma, based on its outstanding balance at the time of birth may take on any body - of a unicellular organism, a plant, an insect, a bird, an animal, or a human.  
  2. Once the outstanding balance has been brought to zero, the Jivatma will not remain in PME even for a second. It will cast the Mortal Body aside, take on the ITB and travel via the Bright Highway to the PIE. At the PIE, there is a river called Viraja. It takes bath in river Viraja to get rid of its ITB and take on a "Divine Body". In the Divine Body, it lives eternally in the PIE.   

Avatara: The Nitya Jivatma that has been living in PIE eternally may take avatar and come down to Samsara for fulfilling the Lord's commandments. That type of birth is not due to outstanding balance. Birth which is not owing to outstanding balance in BOK is called Avatara. Contrast this with the Rebirth of Baddha Jivatma, which is always due to its outstanding balance in BOK.

Composition of BOK: There are two types of outstanding balances in the BOK,  The Positives (Punya) and the Negatives (Papa or Sin). A Jivatma has to exhaust both in order to bring its BOK to zero. When one experiences pleasure or happiness, the Positives are getting exhausted. When one experiences pain or sadness the Negatives are getting exhausted.

Acquisition of Karma: Though the purpose of birth is for the Jivatma to exhaust its outstanding balance, being in Karma Bhumi - it can acquire additional karmic balance as well. Good deeds earn it Punya while bad deeds earn it Papa. What determines whether a deed a good or bad? The shastras do. As stated by the Lord in Bhagavad Gita,

Shloka 16-24, "Therefore, let the scriptures be your authority in determining what should be done and what should not be done. Understand the scriptural injunctions and teachings, and then perform your actions in this world accordingly."

The scriptures here mainly includes the shruti's, smriti's, itihasa, and purana,  They are replete with commandments and suggestions - like - do this, refrain from this etc. Doing what it commands one to do - is NOT Punya. But, Not Doing as per a commandment is Papa. For instance, one of the simple commandments of the scriptures is "Snaatva Bhunjeeta" - ie Eat only after taking bath. Without knowing this commandment, if one insists on eating something before taking bath, that Jivatma acquires papa karma to its BOK. These commandments have been codified by our learned ancestors into a daily/period routine - which is why we call Hinduism is a way of life - than a religion. However, in the modern days, a lot of these practices have been abandoned in the name of orthodoxy or superstition. It does not mean, there are no superstitions in Hinduism. One needs to study scriptures, analyze whether a disciplined practice advised or followed by elders in the family is a scriptural injunction or a superstition, and perform actions accordingly.

Nevertheless, it is said that within the blink of an eyelid, we humans are capable of acquiring as much karma in our BOK that cannot be exhausted even if one were to live a period of  Three  Trillion years (One Kalpa).

The hell hole or Black Hole?: While we are here to exhaust our karma, our rate of acquisition is apparently far higher than the rate of exhausting. How will we ever be able to bring it to Zero? Isn't there a way to get out of this black hole or hell hole called Samsara?  Ture, we cannot get out of it through our own effort. But there is help! He, the Lord, is ever willing to help us out of this hell hole. All that he needs, is our permission. He is extending his long arm asking us to hold on to it. We are the one that is refusing to take his help, because of our ignorance and arrogance, thinking we can get out of it by ourselves! Again, as stated by the Lord in Bhagavad Gita,

Shloka 7-14, "My divine energy Maya, consisting of the three modes of nature (Sattva, Rajas, Tamas), is very difficult to overcome. But those who surrender unto me cross over it easily.

Divine Intervention is the only answer: True, there is the option of doing counter actions called Prayaschitta. But even that is a self driven effort - one needs to know the scriptures completely and thoroughly before determining what is a prayaschitta! one should know to perform it flawlessly - because, flaws committed in prayaschitta can lead to additional balance in the BOK!  The comparatively superior and yet the simplest strategy of all, is to surrender to the Lord and allow him the permission to take care of us and lead us to the PIE.

Well, What more do we need, when after sensing Arjuna's helplessness, the Lord himself, without Arjuna asking Him, voluntarily revealed this ultimate strategy:

Shloka 18-66
सर्वधर्मान्परित्यज्य मामेकं शरणं व्रज |
अहं त्वां सर्वपापेभ्यो मोक्षयिष्यामि मा शुच: || 66||
Abandon all varieties of dharmas and simply surrender unto me alone. I shall liberate you from all sinful reactions and lead you to Moksha; do not fear.

Knowing now, that Krishna, is the one that has offered this advice, is there use in seeking refuge of anyone else?

Has any one other Krishna offered such a clear strategy? Yes, Rama and Varaha have offered similar statements. They are all one and the same  God, the supreme creator, in whom the world rests now, and during the time of mass destruction (Pralaya), i.e Sriman Narayana - the Lord of the PME and PIE, and the one that created the Administrator of Creation - the four faced Brahma. It is He and only He that can lead us out of this hell-hole called Samsara,

Does he need to shed his blood in order to save us? No! Neither has he ever shed blood for anybody's sin. Why should he? Blood is a mere mortal substance! Once we have become strong in our conviction that He alone is the savior, the next step is to surrender to Him.

How to surrender? Is he taking applications now? Yes, he is taking applications always - but he expects us to apply through the proper channel. He is in our own heart watching our every move. He wants us to demonstrate that conviction by approaching one of his avataras (yes, there are right here amidst us!) and taking refuge at their feet. They are called Acharyas. At any time, if we demonstrate our ego and arrogance to even think of an Acharya as a mere mortal human, that conviction in Him as the only savior is lost - we could be back to square one.  Acharyas are none other than Sriman Narayana himself! With that thought deeply embedded in mind, approach an Acharya without delay to acquire your passport to PIE!!!

Monday, August 8, 2016

The Food Chain and Role of Brahmins in Universal Well Being

The following shloka from the Bhagavad Gita says more than what it does literally:

अन्नाद्भवन्ति भूतानि पर्जन्यादन्नसम्भव: |
यज्ञाद्भवति पर्जन्यो यज्ञ: कर्मसमुद्भव: || 3-14||

"Bhutani" refers to all living beings - not merely human beings.

अन्नाद्भवन्ति भूतानि - Annam literally refers to Rice. However, the statement here is that living beings subsist on Rice. We must therefore take Annam to be representative of Food, in general, than purely rice. Why did the Lord choose "Rice" as representative word for Food when He could have chosen other words - perhaps, including Meat? It is possibly because of the emphasis on vegetarianism. Does is means He does not care for subsistence of carnivores? No, understanding this more deeply, deers subsist on grass, and tigers on deers. What it means is that the food chain starts with grass/plants, and other living beings in the food chain can subsist only as long as the beings in the lower level of the food chain can subsist. So let us generalize this - Food at the lowest level of the food chain is herbivores that subsist on plants. Humans (vegetarians) subsist on rice, grains, leaves, vegetables, and fruits provided by plants. And so on. The choice of the word "Annam" primarily points to the Lord's preference for a vegetarian diet for humans, as he is addressing Arjuna here.

Secondly, Herbivorous or Carnivorous, can we image a world that has no vegetation? What would that world be like? Humans eating animals, and animals eating humans, or worse, human eating humans? Can humans or living beings in general subsist in such a world?  Plants, and their products are essential for the survival of all living beings on earth!

पर्जन्यादन्नसम्भव: - In this phrase the Lord says that Annam, i.e food, becomes possible because of rains. Having established the importance of plants, we do well understand the importance of rain for plants and vegetation to thrive. Now, one may say that plants also need sunlight to thrive. We must understand that order to establish the food chain, the Lord has chosen rain as the common term to mean all that a plant needs to thrive - air (carbon-di-oxide), water, and sunlight.

यज्ञाद्भवति पर्जन्यो - In this phrase the Lord says that rains are caused  by yagna or sacrifices. Now this may be a little controversial even to most believers. In common, we see that rains are simply seasonal. The South West Monsoon arrives around the first week of June in India, no matter somebody has performed a yagna somewhere or not. Otherwise, performing a rain-begetting-yagna would have been common-place practice. And then, it is commonplace understanding that yagnas are always officiated by Brahmins. Is the Lord emphasizing a role for Brahmins in causing rains?

To understand this a little better, let us look at the first line of shloka 3-12.

इष्टान्भोगान्हि वो देवा दास्यन्ते यज्ञभाविता: |

In this line, the Lord says that Higher Beings (Devas) grant the desired necessities of life when propitiated through yagna. This does not mean they shower gold coins on us. All those gold coins are not going to buy you any food if there is no rains or sunshine and if plants do not grow!! These higher beings are merely administrators of this world (upon the supreme Lord's order). They give us rains (water), sun-shine (causing water cycle and rain), and air, which in turn causes the soil to become fertile to grow plants. They may also bestow wealth on us in mysterious ways, as long as we propitiate them sincerely as stated in the Vedas.

Now, what needs to be understood is that the Lord has established a symbiotic relationship between  these higher beings, and human beings. An important part of all yagnas that humans do is invocation of the higher beings, and offering them our little mite, in terms of the annam (cooked food) and kusha grass offered in fire. Fire is the celestial messenger/postman that carries our offerings to the higher beings. Fire, personified as a higher being, is himself to be offered respects and propitiated first, in order to act as the messenger to take these offerings to the other higher beings.

That said, the panchabhutas - Prithvi (earth), Aapa: (water), Tejas (Fire), Vayu (Air), Akash (Space) are primary for the survival of the human race and need to be propitiated, along with their leader, Indra (who is instrumental along with Aapa: for causing rains). We are indebted to these higher beings for providing us an opportunity to sustain human life on earth. Being indebted, we are expected to do our duty of "thanking the higher beings" for what they have given us.  Therefore yagnas must be performed for the well being of all human beings. It therefore is not a coincidence that all yagnas end with Loka Samastha Sukhino Bhavantu i.e "may all the lokas subsist as a result of this yagna."

Yagnas are indeed officiated and performed by Brahmins. What it means is that Brahmins are an indispensable part of human life. Not Brahmins who are not living as brahmins - but the emphasis is on "practicing brahmins" who do their yagna every day. It is because of them that human life on earth is in equilibrium.  Brahmins, traditionally, even in vedic society have been minorities. But in Vedic society, Kings recognized their need for the society's well being, and patronized them. They invited brahmins  who were vedic experts to conduct various yagnas and ensured their well being. Kings also used their services to consult them on how to administer the kingdom justly, as stated in the Vedas. Thus, despite being minority, well-versed vedic brahmins were powerful. However, the most learned ones seldom used their power and chose a life of seclusion. There may have been a few of lower-learning in the Vedas that might have misued such confidence expressed by the Kings. That may be reason why brahmins are today marginalized in the modern society.

यज्ञ: कर्मसमुद्भव: - Yagna is nothing but performance of ritualistic duties as stated in the Shastras. A grahastha brahmin is supposed to be an agnihotra who does his daily rituals, offering food via fire to the higher beings. Satisfied with that offering, the higher beings bestow equilibrium of natural forces offering fertility of soil, rains, and sun-light, causing plants to grow, which in turn provides enough food for all living beings on earth, causing peace, happiness, wealth, and all-round well being of the society at large. And the brahmin does not do it for himself, because, when he does the rituals, it rains not merely in his field or house - but everywhere; the sun shines, not merely in his locality, but every where.

Universal Well Being (Sukha for Loka Samastha) - the Universe has several lokas of which 14 are important - Bhu Loka is in the center of the 14. The seven upper lokas are Bhu:, Bhuva:, Suva:, Maha: Jana:, Tapa: and Satyam.    The seven lower lokas are Atala, Vitala, Sutala, Rasatala, Talatala, Mahatala, and Patala. A brahmin performing his agnihotra duties bestows equilibrium of natural forces in all these 14 lokas causing sukha/happiness.  It causes food to be available to all living beings in Bhu lokas.

That said, if brahmins are marginalized in the society and if they are unable to perform their ritualistics duties due to the pressure of modern "civilization" and the numerous societal pressures - the downside to society is unthinkable. Unfortunately, that is the direction the society is headed. Already a minority, brahmins are today persecuted in every way possible by the modern society. There are no kings anymore and democratically elected governments have nothing but apathy for them. Systematically they are now drawn in to modern societal structure causing them to have lesser and lesser time for practice of ritualistic duties. Schools do not teach anything related to the vedas nor do they prepare brahmin children for the practice of their ritualistic duties. Brahmins are drawn in to mainstream job market - as accountants or teachers or IT software professionals, or some other profession - reporting into bosses who seldom understand the value of a vedic educated brahmin.

It will not take very long, before the brahmins will stop wearing the sacred thread any more. Upanayanam - the sanskar that ought to be done when children are 7 years of age, is already getting delayed. Some delay this all the way to the day before marriage!! There are very few sources available for brahmin children to learn the shastras - and even the very few sources available on the internet are all but biased and distorted, having been translated into English by the likes of Max-Mueller!   And Manu Dharma Shastra is completed derided having been faultily translated - and written as if it promotes discrimination! What was once societal segregation on the lines of division of labor has been misconstrued as racial discrimination! The society needs brahmins, and it needs them to study the vedas and practice their daily duty for the welfare of not merely Bhu loka, but for all 14 lokas! But when charged with racial discrimination that brahmins were not responsible for creating, and marginalized, and persecuted entirely as a community for no fault of theirs, they have no other option but to give up being a practicing brahmin.

The society is taking the Sun, air, soil fertility, and rain for granted. They think it is going to rain, no matter what. They think the Sun is going to shine, no matter what. Yeah, there is global warming - but then it is not so perceivable - it is only gradual. They think we have time to fix global warming. Nations like India are passing food security bills without understanding the connection between brahmins, their practice of yagnas, and the food chain as described above. But once can see clearly that the human civilization on earth is headed in the wrong direction. There will be day when trillions of dollars stashed away in bank will not be able to buy an individual a morsel of food! And as predicted in some of the puranas, as kaliyuga progresses, cannibalism will become the order of the day. Food security is not assured even to the rich. It shudders to think what life will be like down the road in Kaliyuga!!!