Humble salutations to the Supreme Intelligence, the Advaita Guru Parampara (lineage teaching non-duality / advaita veDAnta) and my own Acharya (Preceptor) for the content that I put forth in this blog !
In the previous blog we looked into how the variation in human mind (Satvik – pure, calm; Rajasic – dynamic; Tamasic – dull, lazy) directly contributed to the vastness of Vedic Scriptures. In this blog let’s explore further on the subject to see how exactly the Scripture apportions itself to aid ideal evolution of the mind.
The vedA are considered apaurushEya pramANam (not of human origin) having been authored by The Intelligence Principle Himself (for want of a better pronoun I have used ‘himself’)! To the followers of VedA, the Scripture itself thus is no different from He who gave it out. The Highest, expressing itself through words (shabda pramANam) is the vedA and thus holds sacred status among the followers. VedA are 4 in number (Rig, Yajur, Sama and Atharvana). Each vedA is subsequently divided into 3 portions for a very good reason. Let’s explore what they are and why:
- The karma khaNdha – Beginning portion pertaining to rituals and activities
- The upAsana khaNdha – Middle portion pertaining to quietude and meditation
- The GYana khaNdha – Final portion pertaining to enquiry, knowledge and contemplation
All beings (humans in this context) are born naturally Tamasic or with the inherent attribute of inertia since as babies, we begin by just eating and sleeping. With the right food, nurture, love, care, devotion, the baby slowly grows up and as he does, his nature (hopefully) changes accordingly. It is to break this inherent lethargy in man that Vedha begins its teaching through the karma khaNdhA.
How does karma khANdhA effect the mind?
Karma in Sanskrit literally translates to action. The vedA decided that the only way to break man out of his laziness was by getting him engaged in activity, whether at the physical level in the form of elaborate rituals or at the mental level in the form of prayer, chanting, etc. Afterall, does it make any sense to prescribe meditation to a naturally dull person? That will be the ripest opportunity for a quick nap in seated position 😴! Similarly, how can a mind so dull and inundated with delusion understand the highest philosophy presented in the GYAna khaAnDha (the final portions)? Thus, man was first introduced to the idea of action / karmA. But the human intellect, will it willingly submit to activity when there is choice to laze around and sleep longer? The Creator however, was a step ahead of us and had the solution for this! He decided to dangle a carrot to make the rabbit move forward! Every ritual was attached to a personal gain at the end of it to make it attractive for man. Yes it was inculcating some selfishness, but that was the only way to break man out of his laziness and make him act, so he could gain something out of it. Such acts promoting selfish gains are called sakAma karmA and the person indulging in the act, merely for self benefit, a karmii.
The physical practices of Yoga, rituals involving strenuous physical and mental involvement, group singing, chanting and any other practices that engage the body physically and keep the mind actively engaged would qualify as activities of the karma khaNdhA. As one thus continues to indulge in selfish activity (saKAma karMA), he, at the very least breaks out of laziness and is ready to move on to the next stage of the mind’s evolution.
Some Vedic prescriptions may appear ununderstandable and uncomfortable but they have deep significance behind them. For example, for the period between mid December and mid January, vedA suggests waking up earlier than normal to begin ones daily activities. Seems like a huge inconvenience especially when this is the time when the temperature is colder than other times of the year and one just wants to sleep in. That exactly is the point of the vedA too! It feels that if man slept longer at this time, that will allow the tamo gunA / laziness in him to surface again! It is necessary for us followers to grasp the deep significance behind every prescription rather than follow it out of fear or force.
Simply continuing to exert oneself for ones own selfish gains cannot take a man forward. Man’s mind being reasonably purer now, by continuously engaging in action, he is now introduced to a new way of performing action. Swami Chinmayananda, a senior Preceptor of the lineage beautifully expounds this Art of Action.
- Withdraw the selfishness connected to the action. Man is taught to continue acting with all dynamism in the world outside but no longer for selfish ends. Such selfless activity is called nishKAma karMA. He works for the sake of the action itself, without the selfish feeling of ‘I + I want’!
- All actions invariably are performed keeping the result of action in sight and that alone! Action is in the present, result of action is in the future. By keeping our mind fixed on the result, we are thereby allowing our mental energies to become dissipated from the present, unnecessarily into the unknown future. With our mind not in the present, how can any action performed yield the best results? When we are fully present in the “now”, the action in the now will automatically yield excellent results. Thus we learn to act by beng fully present in the action action rather than in anxiety for the result.
Action thus performed, without selfishness and without anxieties for the result of action constitute karma yogA and the person, a karma yogii. With such action, the mind becomes purer and quieter, having given us selfish desires and anxieties.
Through every action of his, the karma yogii’s mind expands more and more to include the needs of his immediate surroundings and society in it. As part of karMA yoGA, he is taught to indulge in charity, social service, nature protection, kindness to animals and other human beings, etc. In fact the very scheme of marriage as explained by the Vedha is nothing more than for expansion of mind. First man is single and works for his own selfish ends. Add a wife and his mind expands enough to include her and her needs too. Then add the kids one by one and slowly his mind grows outwards more and more to include all in the family (this certainly applies for women too!). Anyone who has been married long enough certainly will vouch for a change in spouse’s attitude when compared to wherever they were at the start! Of course, Scripture does warn to not stop at including only those within the family but grow more to include all beings around us.
How does upAsana khANdhA effect the mind?
Now, having worked in the world and having completed his basic duties towards family and society, this fairly pure mind becomes naturally attracted to quietude, meditation,etc. This is where the Upasana Khanda or meditation portion of the Vedhas educates a quiet recluse of the methods to quieten and further purify the mind through the practices such as Pranayama (breath control), Dharana, Dhyana, Samadhi (all 3 pertaining to the actual process of meditation).
VedAnta looks at meditation as nothing more than a practise to purify and quieten the mind. According to vedAnta, yes, while mystical experiences are possible in meditation, no new knowledge about the Absolute can be obtained in this state!
How does GYana khANdhA effect the mind?
Having thus purified and quietened the mind through the continued practice of meditation, automatically that man is drawn to questions about God, life, World, connection between the 3, connection between God and I, and things like that. This is where the GYana khANdhA (the portion of Self Knowledge) also called the Upanishads or vedAntA is introduced. This feeds the calm, quiet, prepared intellect with all the teachings required to help him understand and appreciate the true nature of God / Self.
Knowledge, like water is said to flow freely from up to down / high to low / where it is to where it isn’t and that is why, in traditional Vedic style teaching, the Preceptor always sat at a higher level. Certainly makes for better visibility by all too!
According to vedAnta, every mind, at one point or the other has to come to knowledge of the Self. While many people feel that the Self can be realized by themselves, without any external aid, Scripture simply smiles because it compares such efforts to one trying to look at his own eyes without the aid of a reflection surface. If we continue to argue and point to spiritual geniuses who realized the Truth by themselves, without a teacher and teaching, Scripture again just reminds us that the mind through several births is on a journey to evolve and every experience through every birth is a step forward. So though it appears that some become realized by themselves, they really have picked up the teaching in a previous birth! This is very similar to how child prodigies in various fields can be explained too. To us though it just seems like someone got lucky being born a prodigy, Scripture explains this at length and gives a title to such people too. They are called yOga brashtA or in simple terms ‘somebody who missed the bus’ (in their previous human incarnation). That is, they came all the way to the end but somehow didn’t quite make it past the ‘finish line’! Such people, when they reincarnate as human again, pick up exactly where they left off and thus happen prodigies!
Like a non-judgemental, loving mother who buys the kids balloons when he wants it, even as she secretly hopes that he will outgrow it by himself one day, the vedA, with love and compassion give us what our current state of mind demands while it secretly hopes that we will grow and evolve forward from there by our effort.
VedA is a beautiful scripture which itself teaches that it should be used as a road map, every step of the way, to guide us to the destination, that being Self / God. It has no qualms in instructing us that once the destination has been reached, we are more than free to give it up as it has served its purpose and thereby become redundant! The VedA doesn’t force itself upon us but is present as a simple guiding medium like the ‘Do you need help?’ counter in a crowded public area. The smart, discriminative ones themselves go and seek help and information from the counter thus minimizing wasted time spent In aimless searching!
Scripture says that 3 things are not the easiest to attain,
- human birth
- a desire to know God /Self
- a Preceptor who can give us the Knowledge
Clearly we have satisfied the first 2 of the 3 qualities! Now it’s upto us to make the best of our situation and strive to make the efforts for our own freedom! The loss is totally ours if we misuse the chance given!
OM! Peace! Peace! Peace!