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Saturday, April 28, 2018

Yama and Mrtyu - Maha Bharata series 73

Book 12, 197 (S 189) uses the word jaapaka (one who recites japa) for one who recites mantras. He is compared to one who meditates.  The discussion also suggests that meditation is favored over reciting mantras. But neither of them will be useful if one does not control the senses and the mind and if done purely as a ritual without full understanding of the meaning and the purpose. The purpose is merger of the mind with the Brahman.

The word Vedanta is used here (Section 189). This is probably one of the earliest use of this word. But, since the word Vedanta came into common use after Adi Sankara, my guess is that the word in this context means Upanishads, which come at the end of the Vedas

The words vicara, vitarka and viveka are used in a sentence in a beautiful manner. These words mean doubts (or inquiry, reflection or consideration), argumentation (or discussion) and wisdom respectively. These are the proper steps to critical thinking.
In the Buddhist literature it is said that there are seven steps between the time a thought appears in our minds and the time it takes deep roots, positive or negative (vicara). The first step in silence meditation is to let go of the thought as soon as it shows up. This is different from the Vipassana (Insight) meditation and Ramana's idea of tracking down the "i". 

The word Yama may mean self-restraint or any observance. It also stands for the God of Death. The most original meaning seems to be twin-born or forming a pair. In that sense the word may stand for Nakula and Sahadeva or the Ashwin brothers. The other pair is Yama (the God of Death) who rules the abode of the pitrs and his twin sister Yamini. Interestingly, Yama’s half- brother is the seventh Manu, the current Manu.

The word Mrtyu also stands sometimes for death and used interchangeably with the word Yama. Mrtyu is more specifically the God of diseases. Several kinds of death are enumerated due to 100 different causes such as accidents and specific diseases and, also due to natural causes.

It is interesting that in this story, the God of Death, the God of Diseases and Time come together. 

A passage in Book 12, Section 195 says:

यथा कश चित सुकृतैर मनुष्यः; शुभाशुभं पराप्नुते ऽथाविरॊधात
एवं शरीरेषु शुभाशुभेषु; सवकर्मजैर जञानम इदं निबद्धम

This means that just as fruits of actions, happiness and misery reside in a material body although they are formless, so does Knowledge although it is not material. Is this not samavaya or the concept of inherence of the Vaiseshika system?  (Please see post on March 3, 2016 on Life and Awareness where I suggest that the concepts of diseases and soul can also be explained with this analogy)

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