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Friday, March 4, 2022

Eight Spiritual Qualities (atma gunas)

The word Samskara has two meanings according to Kanchi Periyaval. One is familiar to all of us. It stands for the forty rites of passages in the life of a Vedic Hindu starting with three ceremonies before birth all the way to the final rites.

The other meaning of samskara is from the Nyaya philosophy and stands for something between experience and impression. It is also called atheentriyam. Kanchi periyaval explains it with an example. Let us say we visited Varanasi and had a great experience visiting Vishvanatha temple. We forget that experience after some time. If we go back and visit the temple again after a few years, we remember the prior experience. This interval when the memory is not on our “radar” is what is called samskara. During this period our initial impression of the experience was still there, but dormant. Memory according to the Nyaya philosophy is the initial impression of the original experience.

In the Kalpa sastra in which the forty samskaras are included is meant to link our original impression of our own Divine nature, which lies dormant, with living experience by means of actions we undertake. They are meant to purify our minds, thoughts and action and prepare us for inner realization or atma gnana.

Therefore, it is no surprise that detailed descriptions of how each samskara should be performed starts with a description of eight noble virtues in the texts of dharma shastra. I call them Spiritual Qualities or Properties of Inner Self which should be cultivated for atma gnana or inner realization. They are called atma gunas.

What are those eight virtues?

Daya – Compassion. Universal Love. This is Loving Kindness to all creatures

Kshanti – Tolerance, patience. This is towards those who do not follow dharma. (dama?)

Anasuya – lack of jealousy. This is towards those who are better than us. Also called mudita in Buddhism.

Sowcham – Inner purity. Virtuous thought, speech and action

Anaayasam – calm in action. In Buddhism, this is samatta

Mangalam – Pure and majestic joy.

Akaarpanyam – Generous in giving. Dana.

Aspruha – unattached (to worldly and impermanent things)

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