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Thread: 'adhyAtmavidyA' in Synthesis: 1. The Great Questioning

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    'adhyAtmavidyA' in Synthesis: 1. The Great Questioning

    Introduction

    Everyone of us is/will become a Seeker at some point of time in our long cycle of (pseudo-eternal) life of births, deaths and rebirths, bothered by the Who/What, How and Why of the Self, the World and our relationship with it.

    Briefly, the Who/What is the sat (real and present nature) of our Self; the How is the cit (the action of the storage of our vAsanAs or past impressions); and the Why is the AnandA (the happiness and peace) we are seeking.

    Who/What represents the icchA shakti (power of desire), How the kriA shakti (power of creation) and the Why the jnAna shakti (power of knowledge) in our manifest Self.

    A number of other questions remain: What happens to me after death? Will I be reborn, cast into hell or enjoy the heavens for ever after death? What is death and why should I die? Is there a way I can be immortal and live happily forever? Why is there so much of difference in the teachings of various religions? What is the ultimate Truth? Is that Truth Advaita, Dvaita or Vishishtadvaita? Which is the true knowledge, Physical Science or Metaphysical Science? Looking at the lawful order of things in the manifest world, it should be Science after all; and looking at the life and harmony of Nature, it should be beyond Science too...

    At the root of all such questioning is Desire: the desire to know, how to live forever, and live happily in peace. Desire for the knowledge of immortality and peace (happiness) coupled with the fear of annihilation drives all the quest of the seeker.

    This was precisely what Nachiketa sought to know from Yama, the Lord of Death. The spirit of Nachiketa is immanent in us. With some knowledge from our own reading, we have an inkling that the answer to all our questions remains inside us, in our own Self, rather than in the outside World. As we progress, we seek the ultimate peace and happiness, even as we need to remain in this chaotic world and live the turmoil of this life.

    Our scriptures, both sRti (heard, revealed) and smRti (written, remembered) show us ways to realize the Absolute Truth through the variety of chaos of the saMsAra (the World-Process). Since the scriptures approach the Absolute Truth in many angles, a seeker is often confused with their apparent contradictions.

    Bhagavan Das (1869-1958) has authored a powerful work in the manner of a textbook on science that seeks to synthesize all the variety and chaos of the saMsAra and lead us to the Absolute Truth, by offering a way to reconcile the apparently contradicting statements in various Hindu texts. Titled The Science of Peace, this book also touches on the concepts of Western Philosophy and Physical Science and places them in their proper hierarchical context in the holistic 'Science of the Self'.

    Honoured with the Bharat Ratna award in 1955, Bhagavan Das was born in Varanasi and became a scholar of Sanskrit. He joined the Theosophical Society in 1894, and with Annie Besant established the Central Hindu College, Varanasi, which later became the Benaras Hindu University. He wrote around 30 books, many of them in Sanskrit and Hindi. Some of his works include: A concordance dictionary to The yoga-sutras of Patanjali, Indian ideals of women's education, Krishna, a study in the theory of Avataras, The essential Unity of all Religions, The science of peace, The science of religion, The science of the emotions, The Science Of Social Organization, or, The Laws Of Manu In The Light Of Atma Vidya, and The superphysics of the Great War. A prominent road in New Delhi is named after him and a colony is also named after him in Sigra area of Varanasi as 'Dr. Bhagwan Das Nagar'.

    The Science of Peace is a book of over 500 pages, that discusses the way to synthesize and reconcile the variety and chaos in the World-Process and understand them in a scientific way within the Unity and context of the Self. I have attempted a compilation of this rich and powerful book. Since the material is vast, I shall present my understanding of the discussions (quoting, elaborating and paraphrasing them as necessary) with some of my illustrations, through several conveniently related threads, under the title 'adhyAtmavidyA' in Synthesis, in order that members may freely interact and add value to the discussions under each thread.

    This compilation can, however, serve only as an introduction to the great book, which is a must read for every seeker. (The book can be downloaded in PDF format at http://www.archive.org/details/scienceofpeace029498mbp - 23.1 MB).

    The great question of Nachiketa

    Katha Upanishad illustrates the path to immortality with a beautiful story that is replete with hidden meanings. We discuss the story briefly here and about the great question Nachiketa asked Yama, without going into the hidden meanings of what is known as the Nachiketa Vidya.

    With an eye on the heavenly pleasures, King Vajashravasa ('vAjashravasa') once performed a fire sacrifice. As part of the sacrifice he gave all his wealth in charity. He had a son, a young boy named Nachiketa ('naciketA').

    The boy saw his father give away all useless things in addition, in the name of charity. Nachiketa was advanced in knowledge and knew that by givng useless things his father would also need to reside in painful worlds. So he gently accosted his father with the question, "Father, to whom wilt thou give me?" He asked his father this question three times.

    His father got annoyed and said, "mR^ityave tvA dadAmi (Unto death I offer you)." Though his father spoke the words in anger, they were commitment enough and thus Nachiketa reached the portals of Yama Dharma Raja. Since Yama wasn't there, Nachiketa waited for three days. When Yama came back and received the boy, he offered three boons to the boy in return for making him wait for three nights, because a guest had to be treated on par with God.

    The first boon Nachiketa sought from Yama was that his father should accept him (because he is returning from Yama in bodily form!). Yama readily gave the boon and said that his father would receive and accept his son as before and be happy that his son was released from the jaws of death.

    Then Nachiketa spoke thus to Yama for his second boon:

    1-I-12. There is no fear in heaven; nor art thou there; nor is there any fear from old age. Transcending both hunger and thirst and rising above grief, man rejoices in heaven.

    1-I-13. O Yama, thou knowest the Fire that leads to heaven. Instruct me, who am endowed with faith, about that (Fire) by which those who dwell in heaven attain immortality. This I choose for my second boon.

    Yama gave Nachiketa the details of performing the fire sacrifice that leads to heaven and said that henceforth the ritual will be known by the boy's name. Yama also indicated that the Agni to perform the sacrifice resided in the cavity of the heart. Thus the Nachiketa Vidya in essence means the inward sAdhanA (spiritual practice) rather than the outword yajnA (act of sacrifice).

    The third boon

    And then Nachiketa asked Yama for his third boon a question, that was amazing for a boy of his age:

    येयं प्रेते विचिकित्सा मनुश्ये ऽस्तीत्येके नायमस्तीति चैके ।
    एतद् विद्यामनुशिश्टस्त्वयाऽहम् वराणामेश वरस्त्*इतीयः ॥

    yeyaM prete vicikitsA manuSye .astItyeke nAyamastIti caike |
    etad vidyAmanushiSTastvayA.aham varANAmeSa varastR^itIyaH ||


    1-I-20. "The dread doubt that seizeth the beholders when a man passeth away, so that one sayeth, 'He still is,' and another, 'No, he is no more'. I would know the truth of this, taught by thee, O Yama! This I crave as the third of the three boons thou promised!'

    Yama Dharma Raja, the Judge of departed souls, shrank from the great task imposed on him and answered: "Even the gods have suffered from this doubt, and very subtle is the science that resolveth it. Ask thou another boon! Besiege me not with this. Take all the pleasures that the earth can give; take undivided sovereignty of it!"

    But Nachiketa would not budge: "Where shall all these pleasures be when the end comes! The pleasures are no pleasures, poisoned by the constant fear of Thee! The gods too suffer from the doubt, for they are only longer-lived and not eternal; and that they suffer is but reason why I would not be as they. I crave my boon alone. Nachiketa asks not for another."

    Other similar great questions

    Brhad-Aryanyaka-Upanishad II.iv, speaks of a similar great questioning by Maitreyi to her husband Yajnavalkya: "If all this earth with all its gems and jewels were mine without dispute, should I become immortal?"

    And Yajna-valkya answered: "No, thou couldst only live as the wealthy live and die as they. Wealth brings not immortality!" Then Maitreyi: "What shall I do with that which makes me not immortal? Tell me what thou knowest brings assurance of eternity."

    So Rama also asks Vasishtha: "The books that say that Brahma, Vishnu, and Mahesha are the three highest gods that rule our solar system, say also that they die. Brahma, the highest-seated, falls; the unborn Hari disappears; and Bhava, the source of the existence of this world, himself goes into non-existence! How then may feeble souls like mine find peace and rest from fear of death and change and ending?" (Yoga-Vasishtha, Vairagya Prakarana, xxvi,29.)

    "To be dependent on another (to be at the mercy of another, to be subject to the relentlessness of death)--this is misery. To be Self-dependent--this is happiness." (Manu Smriti, 4.160)

    Spiritual distress that kindles the burning Fires

    Thus Jiva feels the terror of annihilation and struggles to escape from it, into the refuge of some faith or other, low or high, instinctively in the beginning, and consciously and deliberately at the stage when self-consciousness and intelligence are developed. Religion and philosophy begin in such struggles only.

    When this fear of death of body and soul, this fear of loss and change and ending pervades the intelligent and self-conscious Jiva:

    • it destroys his joy in passing things;
    • makes him withdraw from old accustomed objects of enjoyment;
    • fills him with sadness and disguest for worldly pleasures that really hide pain inside them;

    thus, left in solitude and sorrow, when the Jiva yearns and pines for a way out of this vast slaughterhouse into the Permanent, the Eternal, the Restful, then is that searching soul passing through the fires

    • of burning thought, reflection and discremination between the Transient and the Permanent;
    • of passionate rejection of all personal and selfish pleasures and attachments in himself and in others;
    • of the self-suppression, the intense quiescence and compassionate sadness, of utter renunciation;
    • and of a consuming, ever-present, craving and travailing for the means of liberation, from that seeming slaughter-house, for himself and for all others.

    These fires that the Jiva passes through makes him worthy of ved-Anta, of that 'final knowledge' which he craves, and which alone can bring him peace and fit him for the work that lies before him.

    Then is his consciousness, his individuality, his personal self, focussed into an infinitesimal point, and, thus oppressed with the feeling of its own extreme littleness, is it ready for the supreme reaction, ready to lose itself and merge into and realize the All-Consciousness of the Infinite and Universal Self.

    Grasping and understanding the mystery of the World-Process and its underlying Unity of the Self can speed up the onset of this most fearful and most fruitful mood that leaves the Jiva desperate in his search for immortality.

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    Re: 'adhyAtmavidyA' in Synthesis: 1. The Great Questioning

    Hari Om
    ~~~~~

    Quote Originally Posted by saidevo View Post

    At the root of all such questioning is Desire: the desire to know, how to live forever, and live happily in peace. Desire for the knowledge of immortality and peace (happiness) coupled with the fear of annihilation drives all the quest of the seeker.

    Grasping and understanding the mystery of the World-Process and its underlying Unity of the Self can speed up the onset of this most fearful and most fruitful mood that leaves the Jiva desperate in his search for immortality.
    Namaste saidevo,
    what you offer can be a great conversation as others engage on this matter.
    Many confuse immortality ( even King Dhritarashtra of the Mahabharaha ) as living with the body for eternity. Immortality is the nature of the SELF, wouldn't you say? It is being possessed of the SELF that brings this notion of immortality to life.

    It will not take long for this conversation to address whether this immortal state of the SELF being ubiquitous, is accomplanied by the experience of one being aware of this immortality (a SELF referal condition) and takes delight in it, experiences it. Or is it the state of pure awareness itself, having no interest in being bound to a notion of experiencing. The Upanishads can assist us with these questions.

    There never was a time when I was not, nor you nor these rulers amonst men; nor will there ever come a time when we all shall cease to be. Krsna ( Chapt 2.12, Bhagavad gita )


    pranams
    Last edited by yajvan; 26 January 2008 at 08:54 PM.
    यतस्त्वं शिवसमोऽसि
    yatastvaṁ śivasamo'si
    because you are identical with śiva

    _

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    Re: 'adhyAtmavidyA' in Synthesis: 1. The Great Questioning

    Namaste Yajvan.

    Quote Originally Posted by yajvan View Post
    Immortality is the nature of the SELF, wouldn't you say? It is being possessed of the SELF that brings this notion of immortality to life.
    Search for immortality, as Bhagavan Das says in Chapter 2 of his book, is conditioned by an instinctive need for unity.

    Why should there be search for immortality? Because the Jiva knows instinctively about God as the only Almighty and wants to become like God and perhaps play God. To know God and exist like Him for ever, the Jiva progressively finds that he needs to be in unity with God, and ultimately realizes that He is already in such unity!

    Every human being seeks unity in one form or another. Even scientists, who profess to be rationalists, are in search of a unified theory of everything in the universe. From the downward curve of divide and conquer, science is today turning into the upward curve of unite and realize. Still science has one great duality: inanimate and animate matter. Ultimately, however, science has to realize that life in the form of consciousness is immanent in all matter, so there is no dead or living matter.

    If a drop of the ocean wants to become the ocean itself, it should first realize that both are of the same nature, though the ocean is infinite and drop is infinitesimal, and although the drop finds in its present condition only drops around with no sight of the ocean; and then the drop should lose its individuality and merge with the mighty ocean.

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    Re: 'adhyAtmavidyA' in Synthesis: 1. The Great Questioning

    Hari Om
    ~~~~~
    Quote Originally Posted by saidevo View Post
    Namaste Yajvan.
    Every human being seeks unity in one form or another.
    If a drop of the ocean wants to become the ocean itself.
    Namaste saidevo,
    You have offered some very good points. Its been said that every desire in the final analysis is the desire for this wholeness for this samasta, to feel complete.

    One desires a home, a spouse or children, more friends, more something. Adding this something, then the analysis , do I feel whole, full (Bhuma)? This acquiring, looking for that peace of the puzzle that makes one feel fullness.

    For me rishi Sanatkumara says it best: nalpe sukham asti - 'finite things do not contain happiness'.

    If we continue to look to things that are within limits to find the limitless, it ain't gonna happen.

    I hope others give their POV on the initial string , as the wisdom of the Katha Upainshad is a wealth of knowledge to consider.

    pranams
    यतस्त्वं शिवसमोऽसि
    yatastvaṁ śivasamo'si
    because you are identical with śiva

    _

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