Vedantic Wednesday : Something for Everyone

Very often when you want to learn, you are swamped by the available volumes of literature. Every one of them look enticing. But many leave us puzzled and more confused. The fault does not lie in them, but in us for failing to have a progressive map for acquiring knowledge. The ancient masters realized we would face this same predicament when we attempt to learn from the ancient texts. So they got down to organizing it.

As in any study there are texts written to suit the needs of a variety of students. Since students / readers come in different stages of knowledge, the subject under consideration is also presented accordingly. In ancient India we find that our great rishis, have created complete and detailed texts pertaining to specific subjects. These texts are complete treatises on the subject. But they are meant for the serious and advanced learner. These texts contain knowledge based on the timeless principles. Such texts are called ‘sastra-grantas’. Some examples of ‘sastra-granthas’ include: ‘Bhautika Sastra’ – Physics; ‘Rasaayana Sastra’ – Chemistry; ‘Artha Sastra’ – Economics; ‘Vastu Sastra’ – Architecture.

With passing of time, since many learners could not develop the abilities directly to study the ‘sastra-grantas’ – the sages / rishis created another type of text called ‘prakarana-granthas’. These as the name suggests are topical texts or introductory texts. They do not contain all aspects on the subject of coverage, but take up a certain set of concepts and detail them. These texts are for the serious and sincere seeker who has just started on the path of learning, but is still not clear with the concepts and terms in the subject area. Without this fundamentals well understood, the student may get lost trying to study the ‘sastra-granthas’ and hence for such students a study of the ‘prakarana-granthas’ are suggested. Some of the ‘prakarana-granthas’ include: Vivekacudamani, Atma-bodha, Tattva-bodha.

Vedantic Wednesday: Sense and Sensibility

Last week we had seen that irrespective of our form, our human body will go essentially through six stage from conception to decay.  But we get so attached to it through all the stages. It is ignorance leads the individual to think that he / she is the body. This attachment to the gross body makes the individual to indulge in sensory enjoyments.

Sankaracarya makes a strong reference to man’s indulgence in sensory pleasures in his work titled ‘Vivekacudamani’.Here in one of the verses he states that the deer, the elephant, the moth, the fish, and the honey bee; all fall to death because of their strong attachment to the pleasures of one or more of their sense organs. In the case of the deer it is the sweet music that it loves to hear, in the case of the elephant, it is their rubbing of their bodies during the mating season, in the case of the moth, it is the attraction to the fire, in the case of the fish it is the gluttony and in case of the honey-bee it is the sweet honey present in the flower that it hoards, to be eventually stolen away. Sankaracarya asks a very strong question, saying that if this is the fate of the above animals when they are attached to one or more sense organs – what is the state of man, who is attached to all five sense organs?

This question when contemplated upon sounds scary on one hand and on the other hand it also highlights how we are wasting a great blessing of human life without pursuing the higher. Constant reflection on the futility of the sensual indulgence will provide enough reasons for dissuading us from getting caught in these pleasures, thereby making the path to spiritual evolution easier.