The Samskrta Academy, Madras (Chennai), deems it a unique privilege and honour to re-print the publication “Sankara and Shanmata” brought out after the nine-day conference held in Madras (now Chennai) from 1-6-1969 to 9-6-1969 as directed by His Holiness Sri Chandrasekharendra Saraswati Swamigal and in His immediate Divine presence. The conference took place in the spacious hall of Astika Samajam, Venus Colony, Chennai-18. Sri T. Sadasivam an ardent devotee of His Holiness took very keen interest in organizing the conference.
Mr. V.V.Giri, acting President of India, inaugurated the nine-day conference on 1st June 1969. Mr. P.B. Gajendragadkar, Vice-Chancellor, Bombay University and Former Chief Justice, Supreme Court of India, gave his address at the inaugural session. The proceedings started with an invocation song by Smt. M.S. Subbulakshmi.
Many eminent scholars took part in the conference and contributed very useful and informative articles. His Holiness Himself gave very important details about Sankara and his monumental contribution in regard to the establishment of the six-fold faith relating to the worship of Ganesa, Subramanya, Vishnu, Surya, Sakti and Siva.
Dr. N. Veezhinathan, Former Prof. & Head, Dept. of Sanskrit, University of Madras took an active part in the Conference. He is therefore most competent to write a Foreword for the reprint in view of his participation in the conference and his profound scholarship. His foreword is a pointer to his outstanding scholarship and deep study of the Sastras and the Advaita philosophy.
The Academy considers itself extremely fortunate and blessed that the reprint gets released from the holy hands of Guruji Sri Muralidhara Swamigal; a spiritual leader of great eminence and an exemplary devotee of Lord Krishna on the occasion of the function organized to celebrate the Vajra Mahotsavam of the Academy (completion of over 80 years) founded in December 1927 at Madras (now Chennai) at the Sanskrit College premises on Thursday, the 18th March 2010.
Dr. K. Srinivasan, Head of the Department of Sanskrit, Vivekananda College, Chennai and Secretary of the Academy as well as Dr. K.S. Balasubramanian and Dr. T.V. Vasudeva, Deputy Directors, Kuppuswami Sastri Research Institute are to be congratulated for their commendable act of re-arrangement of the original publication as considered necessary and useful.
Sri B. Ganapathy Subramanian, Junior Assistant of the Madras Sanskrit College deserves gratitude of the Academy for bringing out a nice pictorial presentation in the front cover of the reprint depicting the divine forms and Sankara and for his assistant for the reprint in its present form.
The Academy has no hesitation in assuring the reader that he will greatly benefit from going through the book which contains wealth of information about the six-fold faith and its relevance and underlying unity in diversity
Some line drawings about Sankara have been included in the reppprint of the book, Courtesy:- Association For Hindu Dharma and Little Flower Company (LIFCO), Chennai. The line drawings of some deities have been taken from the Encyclopaedia of Divine Swaroopas Dhyana-Yantra-Mantras, published by Thiruvaduthurai Adheenam.
In all the schools of Vedanta, there is a trinity, Isvara, jiva, and world, each having its own rights. There, of course, lies a difficulty in explaining how these three act and react upon each other. The Advaitin has sought to overcome this difficulty by interpreting all the three as apparent diversifications of a single Being which is termed Brahman and which is non-dual, pure consciousness, and bliss. The apparent diversification of Brahman into Isvara, the jiva, and world is explained as the effect of avidya or maya, which is indeterminable either as real (sat) or as an absolute nothing (asat). On the strength of being related to Brahman, maya undergoes transformation into the form of the world consisting of the mind, sense-organs, and objects such as the earth. The world, like maya, its cause, is indeterminable either as sat or asat and is not ultimately real.
Brahman gets itself reflected in maya and the mind, and the reflected image (pratibimba) is the jiva. Though Brahman is the pure Being, yet in relation to the reflecting media, viz., maya and the mind and also in relation to the reflected image, viz., the jiva, it acquires an adventitious characteristic known as the state of being the original or the prototype (bimbatva). And as associated with this characteristic, it is known as lsvara. lsvara and the jiva are thus complex entities. Isvara is Brahman as associated with the characteristic of being the original (bimbatva), and the jiva is Brahman as associated with the characteristic of being a reflected image (pratibimbatva). The essential nature of both lsvara and the jiva is the pure Being, Brahman. The characteristics of being the original and of the reflected image are indeterminable and are not real as they are caused by maya. lsvara, being the original, is not influenced by the characteristics of the reflecting media, while the jiva, being the reflected image, is affected by them. lsvara, therefore, is eternally aware of his identity with the pure Being, and he is ever-released. It is the jiva who, under the influence of the reflecting media, loses sight of its identity with its essential nature which is the pure Being, falsely identifies itself with the mind, the sense-organs, and the physical body, performs the prescribed deeds and commits interdicted actions and thereby experiences their fruits by undergoing incessant births. In order to get rid of the experience of cyclic existence, the jiva is to realize that its true nature is the pure Being, i.e. Brahman. Such a realization would result from the sruti texts like "tat tvam asi". Maya will be removed thereby and the jiva would become free from its adventitious feature, viz. the state of being a reflected image and would cease to be a jiva. When maya is removed, Isvara too would become free from the characteristic of being the original and would cease to be Isvara. What would remain then is the pure Being, i.e. Brahman which is liberation.
From the above it is evident that the formulation of Advaita in a systematic form and in close alliance with the doctrine of maya has paved the way for viewing Self-realization or the direct knowledge that the true nature of the jiva is Brahman as the sole means to liberation.
We shall now refer to the stages that precede the rise of Self-realization. Sankara identifies the following three stages:
l. The first stage is characterized by the performance of duties relating to one's stage and class of life as an offering to God without any selfish end in view. This is known as karma-yoga or dasya-bhakti; and, it will lead to what is known as sattva-suddhi or the cleansing of the heart. The spiritual aspirant would thereby acquire intense desire to get liberated;
2. The second stage is marked by the observance of Vedantic study and reflection, sranava and manana, the two constituents of Jnana-yoga. These two would remove respectively the false notion that the Upanisads do not teach the non-dual Brahman (pramanasambhavana), and false notion that the Upanisadic truth is stultified by perception and other pramanas (prameyasambhavana);
3. Nididhyasana or continued meditation upon the Upanisadic truth characterizes the third stage. It is helpful to overcome the unconscious and unpremeditated reassertion of the dismaying and oppressive old dispositions of thought such as "I" and "mine" with reference to the psycho-physical organism and its characteristics; and,
4. When the mind of the aspirant has become free from the false notions, the direct knowledge of the true nature of the jiva as Brahman, i.e. Self-realization which has already arisen from the great sayings is cleared of all forms of unbelief and becomes efficacious in removing maya, the root-cause of the worldliness of the jiva. The rise of the direct knowledge of the true nature of the jiva as Brahman marks the fourth stage.
Madhusudana Sarasvati in his commentary on the Bhagavad-gita entitled Gudharthadipika states that the grace of God which could be attained only by bhakti towards Him is absolutely indispensable for warding off of all the impediments that stand in the way of successful accomplishment of each one of the three stages that precede the rise of Self-realization.
Bhakti is to be distinguished from meditative worship or dhyana which is predominantly intellectual. Bhakti and upiistuui relate only to saquria Brahman. The Upanisads speak of Brahman as free from all attributes. i.e. nirguna and also as associated with all auspicious attributes, i.e. saguna. Sankara in his commentary on the Vedanta-sutra (1.1.12 and 3.2.15) states that the Upanisads speak of Brahman as saguna for the sake of meditative worship. He further emphasises the fact that Brahman as nirguna can only be realized as identical with one's self, and Brahman as saguna can only be worshipped.
Brahman associated with attributes, i.e. saguna Brahman is unembodied. The Upanisads prescribe upasanas on it and they arc of the form of ahamgraha-upasana. This means that Brahman which is associated with attributes and which is unembodied must be meditated upon 3.'3 identical with the contemplative's own self. But for most people this kind of meditative worship is difficult. For their sake, saguna Brahman itself assumes illusory male forms such as Brahma, Visnu, and Siva and female forms such as Sarasvati, Laksmi, and Parvati, and further incarnates itself as Rama, Krsna, Nrsimha, Matsya, Kurma and other forms. We shall refer these forms of Brahman as sakara Brahman. Sailkara in his commentary on the Vedanta.-s'lttra( 1.1.20) states that saguna Brahman itself assumes various illusory forms ill order to bestow grace upon its worshippers:
Each individual worshipper can have his chosen deity (istadevata), and he could worship the images of the chosen deity which are made alive with divinity by God. Bhakti or worship involving the emotional element of love is chiefly applicable here. It should be noted that those who are capable of meditating upon the saguna Brahman may also have a natural liking for the worship of sakara Brahman because of the latter's peculiar excellences, especially aesthetic, excellence's, which produce pleasant mental or aesthetic impressions on the worshipper. The point that is of importance here is that meditative Worship (upasana) of saguna Brahman or loving devotion (hhakti) towards sakarna Brahman is the proximate means to Self-realization as they give rise to concentration of thought and also enable one to receive the grace of God which alone could remove every form of obstacle that stands ill the way of attaining Self- realization.
Bhakti towards sakara Brahman, if practised independently would lead the aspirant to the world of iranyagarbha wherein he would attain Self-realization and get liberated. On the other hand, if it is practised along with sranava and manana, it would give concentration of thought and would render nididhyasana on nirguna Brahman possible. In fact unless one has concentration of thought one cannot pursue nididhyasana, the most important constituent of jnana-yoga. And, concentration of thought can be achieved through upasana on saguna Brahman too. But the latter also requires concentration of thought which is possible only by bhakti towards the concrete manifestations of Brahman. Bliakti thus plays a most important role in the scheme of practical discipline in Advaita. Hence Sankara who maintains nirguna Brahman to be the only reality and its realization to be the sole means to liberation has composed moving stotras, i.e., hymns and praises on various deities such as Siva, Visnu, Ganesa, Subrahmanya and others. He is credited with having established on the basis of scriptural teachings the worship of six embodied deities, viz., Aditya, Ambika, Visnu, Ganesa. Siva, and Subrahmanya.
Theists regard the personal God of religion as the ultimate reality and the jiva as His body (sarira). They further hold that loving devotion to God and the grace resulting from it constitute the sole means to liberation which consists in the attainment of the world of God by the jiva. Sankara does not subscribe to this view. He, therefore, cannot be viewed as a theist in the strict sense of the term. But. he cannot be considered as an atheist. For, by interpreting the trinity, Isvara, jiva, and the world as seeming diversifications through maya of a single spirit termed Brahman, the suprapersonal Absolute of philosophy, he admits the existence of God. The jiva, by realizing its true nature as Brahman through loving devotion toward the personal God of religion coupled with the pursuit of jinana-yoga, overcomes maya, transcends the trinity and remains as Brahman which is liberation and which is not valuable but value itself. Sankara therefore, is a supra-theist.
In order to highlight this significant aspect. of the philosophy of Sankara, our Paramacarya in the year 1969 had graciously directed the Late Sri T.Sadasivam to organize a conference on Sankara and Sanmata. The conference was held from June 1-9, 1969 in a grand manner characterized by spiritual and intellectual greatness. Many scholars who were conspicuous in their class or profession for learning participated and presented illuminating papers. They were ably edited by the Late Prof. T.M.P. Mahadevan, an Advaitin by training and temperament and were published and brought out in a book form in 1969 by the Late Sri N. Ramaratnam, a devotee par excellence of the Kanci Kamakoti Mutt. This Volume is reissued now by the Samskrta Academy, Chennai - a renowned organization consisting of scholars who are deeply interested in the development of Sanskrit language and literature. The students of Indian philosophy owe a deep debt of gratitude to Sri B. Madhavan, President of the Samskrta Academy for bringing out this volume which is an abiding monument to the literature of Advaita Vedanta in English.
I would like to conclude this account by citing the splendid lines of Mukakavi:
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