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Friday, May 11, 2018

Yagna, japa or dhyana? - Maha Bharata series 75

Book 12, Section 201 (section 194, in the Sanskrit version) deals with this question. It starts with this beautiful definition of happiness and misery.

    यद यत परियं यस्य सुखं तद आहुस; तद एव दुःखं परवदन्त्य अनिष्टम
इष्टं मे सयाद इतरच सयाद; एतत कृते कर्म विधिः परवृत्तः
इष्टं तव अनिष्टं मां भजेतेत्य; एतत कृते जञानविधिः परवृत्तः
कामात्मकाश छन्दसि कर्मयॊगा; एभिर विमुक्तः परम अश्नुवीत

“Happiness is what is agreeable. Misery is what is not agreeable.”

People who believe that happiness is transient do not spend energy following it. They avoid it by turning to pursuing knowledge. Yagna (sacrifice), japa (recitation) are activities connected with acquisition of objects of desire and they lead only to hell. (The commentator says that hell is not a real place, but the abodes of the sun and the moon and the stars from which one has to be reborn into this world). However, yagna and recitation and penance can be used as a preparation for meditation and Brahmagnana. This is the view expressed later by Adi Sankara. (The implication is that dhyana is a superior path. But other paths may be followed to prepare the mind for dhayana)

Japa, yagna, dana, dharma and dhyana are the five methods for brahmangnana. All are colored by one’s nature whether it is sattva, rajas or tamas.  But, all except dhyana are often performed with a desire for some result. All acts done without attachment to the fruits of action is preferable. (This is Gita’s main message.) All such outward directed acts give temporary happiness. For eternal happiness, one has to let go of attachment to the fruits of action. Even better, let go of desire and anger.

During dhyana, one withdraws the sense organs from the sense objects and also withdraws the mind from the sense organs and succeeds in beholding his own real Self as Brahman. 

The definition of Brahman includes:    
अशब्दम अस्पर्शम अरूपवच
अग्राह्यम अव्यक्तम अवर्णम एकं; पञ्च परकारं ससृजे परजानाम
सत्री पुमान वापि नपुंसकं ; सन चासत सद असच तन
पश्यन्ति यद बरह्मविदॊ मनुष्यास; तद अक्षरं कषरतीति विद्धि

He (IT), the One exists in His (Its) own nature, unaffected by attributes and qualities. It cannot be touched or named; does not have a form or color. It cannot be grasped. (Some of these definitions come from discussions in the next chapter)

The evolution of the five elements (panca bhuta) are given in Section 202 (Sanskrit 195) as follows. This is part of Samkhya philosophy.
अक्षरात खं ततॊ वायुर वायॊर जयॊतिस ततॊ जलम
जलात परसूता जगती जगत्यां जायते जगत
इमे शरीरैर जलम एव गत्वा; जलाच तेजः पवनॊ ऽनतरिक्षम
खाद वै निवर्तन्ति नभाविनस ते; ये भाविनस ते परम आप्नुवन्ति

The translation: Space comes out of the Supreme, the Undecaying. Air comes out of Space; Fire comes out of Air; Water comes out of Air; Earth (universe) comes out of Water. Everything in this universe follow.

During dissolution, the body (earth) goes into water; water into fire; Fire into Air; Air into Space. The emancipated ones do not return from Space (They reach Brahman)

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