Monday, 31 March 2008

05. Karma Yoga

05. Karma Yoga

Right action and right attitude

5.1. Right Action

In the previous four sessions, we saw the Purushārtha, the human goals of life. We also saw about the scriptures which want to help us in the fulfilment of these human goals. Then we saw the scriptural infrastructure, the Varna Āshrama scheme which is the infrastructure presented by the scriptures for the pursuit of these fourfold human goals.

Now in the following sessions, we propose to see the course of discipline prescribed by the scriptures for accomplishing these goals. What we previously saw was the infrastructure or the atmosphere. The very social and family condition was presented before. Now, we are going to see the course of discipline prescribed by the scriptures for the realisation and accomplishment of the human goals. These human goals, include all the four goals – material accomplishments (Dharma-Artha-Kāma) as well as spiritual accomplishment (Moksha). According to the scriptures, all the human accomplishments should culminate in spiritual accomplishment of Moksha. Without Moksha, the human life is incomplete. And therefore the scriptures keep the material accomplishments as incidental goals and the spiritual accomplishment as the ultimate and primary goal of life. In fact that alone gives the sense of fulfilment at the time of death. Minus Moksha the total sense of fulfilment cannot come – there will be wants and regrets.

Therefore keeping all the goals and especially the spiritual goal of Moksha in mind the scriptures prescribe a course of discipline which we generally call Sādhanā. Sādhanā means a course of discipline that we undertake to accomplish a goal – the goal is called Sādhyam. To accomplish the Sādhyam, the goal, we take to a course of discipline called Sādhanā and when we take to this discipline we are called Sādhaka. Therefore the scriptures want us to become Sādhakas taking to Sādhanā for accomplishing the Sādhyam. And once we accomplish the Sādhyam, we will be become Siddhāhā. So, Sādhaka through Sādhanā should attain Sādhyam and thus become Siddha. Sādhaka to Siddha is the journey of life.

Siddha is not related to miraculous powers. Siddha is one who is totally at home with himself. And this entire course of Sādhanā is broadly classified or divided into three levels or segments for the convenience of understanding and practice. Each level being called a Yogaha. The very word Yoga meant that which links the Sādhaka and the Sādhyam – the seeker and the sought. Yoga is derived from the root Yuj – to combine or unite. Unite the Sādhaka and Sādhyam. Yujyate Sādhyena Saha Sādhakaha Yena Saha Sādhanā.

What are these three levels of Sādhanāni or Yogas. These are
· Karma Yoga
· Upāsana Yoga
· Jnāna Yogaha

Therefore you can visualise the entire course of discipline as a staircase with three steps. Three stepped staircase through which you can climb and reach Moksha. We will study each one of the Yoga. Because these three Yogas are not presented as alternative methods. This should be very clear to a Sādhaka that these three Yogas are not presented as alternative or optional methods. According to scriptures all three are important and compulsory and necessary for all the people. Just as when you climb the staircase, you have to step on every step – you cannot skip any one step if you want to safely and comfortably reach the goal.

Therefore we have to necessarily know all the three Yogas and we have to necessarily resort to all the three Yogas. We will now deal with one Yoga at a time, starting with Karma Yoga.

Karma Yoga consists of two words. It is a compound word consisting of two words – Karma and Yogaha. The word Karma in this context refers to proper action or appropriate action. The word Yoga means proper attitude or appropriate attitude – in Sanskrit Bhāvanā. In simple language Karma Yoga is nothing but proper action with proper attitude. Now we have to understand what is meant by proper action.

All the human actions possible for us, are broadly classified into three types by the scriptures. This is based on their spiritual influence on the human beings. This is because, the scriptures consider the spiritual personality and the spiritual goal as the most important thing which we cannot ignore and therefore they categorise actions not based on their materialistic benefits and influence. But actions are categorised based on their spiritual influence on you. There three categories are
1. Uttamam Karma : those Karmas which have maximum positive spiritual influence
2. Madhyamam Karma : intermediary one, those Karmas which have got limited or nil spiritual influence. They might have a lot of materialistic benefits which are not kept in mind.
3. Adhama Karma : those actions which have got a negative spiritual contribution which means those which will cause spiritual fall or retrogression.

Now we will try and understand these.

5.1.1.Uttama Karmāni

This is otherwise known as Sāttvika Karmāni. In the 17th and 18th chapters of Bhagavad Gītā, Krishna deals with these topics in detail. Uttama Karmāni or Sāttvika Karmāni are defined as Para Upakāra Karmāni – all those actions which will benefit maximum number of beings, where you help or contribute towards other’s wellbeing. The Para Upakāra Karmāni are greatly praised in our scriptures. There is a verse that says

Shrūyatam Dharma Sarvasvam,
Shrutva Chaiva Avadhāryatām,
Paropakāra Punyāya
Pāpāya Parapīdanam

All the noble Karmas or punya Karmas or elevating Karmas are Para Upakāra Karma – helping others.

Para Upakārāya Vahanti Nadyaha
Para Upakārāya Duhanti Gāvaha
Para Upakārāya Phalanti Vrukshāhā
Para Upakārārtham Idam Sharīram

In short, Uttama Karmas are those Karmas where you give more and take less. So the greater is your giving, the greater is your growing. Therefore our culture is a giving or Dānam or Tyāgam culture. Whereas a materialistic is a grabbing culture.

This Para Upakāra Karmās are otherwise called Nishkāma Karmāni. Thus all these words are synonymous – Uttama Karmāni, Sāttvika Karmāni, Para Upakāra Karmāni or Nishkāma Karmāni – they contribute to the maximum spiritual growth.

The next question is what are those Para Upakāra Karmāni ? And the scriptures help us in identifying these Para Upakāra Karmās and they are presented as Pancha Mahā Yajnāha – the five fold Yajnāhā. In these five Yajnāhā, I will be contributing to the welfare of the world.

5.1.1.1. Deva Yajnaha

The first Yajnaha is called Deva Yajnaha. This is the first and foremost Para Upakāra Karma. And in this Deva Yajnaha – worship and prayer of God, what am I supposed to do ? I just stand in front of the Lord, and with my full and total heart utter a prayer. The prayer is the noblest one known in the scriptures –

Svasti Prajābhya Paripālayantām,
Nyāyena Mārgena Mahīm Mahīshāhā
Go Bhrahmanebhya Shubhamastu Nityam
Lokāha Samastāha Sukhinaha Bhavantu

May all of humankind be happy and well.
May the great noble lords protect the earth in every way by the path of just virtue.
May there be perpetual joy for those who know the real nature of things.
May all the worlds be happy and free.

A sincere heartfelt deep prayer is the most powerful contribution which will help not only the entire humanity, animals and plants but it goes beyond the terrestrial plane to 14 Lokāhā

Sarve Bhavantu Sukhinaha,
Sarve Santu Nirāmayāhā,
Sarve Bhadrani Pashyantu,
Mā Kaschid Dukhabhāg Bhavet

May everybody be happy,
May everybody be free from disease,
May everybody have good luck and
May none fall on evil days.

So when I utter these prayers in front of the Lord, in any language, I am doing the greatest contribution to the creation. In any other service, I can confine to only a particular geographical area. No human being or no institution can reach all areas of creation, but this one prayer is the most extensive prayer which will benefit the whole creation. So this is the most extensive and least expensive Para Upakāra Karma. The expenditure is a few minutes and few words and the sincere most heart. And along with this prayer if you offer something to the Lord, whatever you offer will also be distributed to the entire creation. Because God does not depend upon your contribution. God has a trust called Universal trust, Him being the trustee. Whatever is offered in any Pūja or Abhishekam, nothing will be waster and everything offered will be taken by the Lord and distributed through the Universal Trust of God to every human being, living being including plants and micro-organisms. Therefore the Sevā or service offered to the Lord, will ultimately go to humanity only.

Nowadays people say that Mānava Sevā is Mādhava Sevā. It is a good concept and is declared by many social service people who sometimes look down upon the religion people going to temples. They have the holier than thou, we are doing service, and that the others are doing useless Pūja . This is because they see only one side of the equation. They know Mānava Sevā is Mādhava Sevā but they don’t understand the other side that Mādhava Sevā is in fact more extensive Mānava Sevā because when I worship or offer, it is reaching the entire humanity. Therefore Mādhava Sevā or Deva Yajnaha is the first and most extensive and least expensive Paropakāram . And this is to be done daily.

5.1.1.2. Pitru Yajnaha

This is the second Yajnaha. In each one of them, there is an expression of gratitude. Gratitude + Upakāra = Yajnaha. I express my gratitude to my Lord for what the Lord has given to me and then I contribute to the creation. In this Yajnaha, I express my gratitude to all my forefathers because of whom I am here. So my parents have contributed by giving birth to me, having brought me up without knowing whether I will do anything in return.

The greatest service is the parental service. And if my parents are able to do that, it is because of their parents and so on. In Pitru Yajnaha, I contribute to the well being of and express my gratitude to all the ancestors.

Then you may ask, how can you call this Paropakāra? Because you are only bothering about your ancestors. In all the Pitru Karmas there is another contribution to a special ‘fund’. This is required because there are many ancestors who do not get the Shrāddham because either they don’t have children or they have children who do not believe in Shrāddham. And imagine the plight of all such ancestors. The scriptures understand that in Kaliyuga, more such non-believers will come and the values will come down and hence we have an offering.

Eshām Na Mātā Na Pitā
Na Mitrajnāti Bāndhavāhā
Te Sarve Trupti Māyāntu
Mayā Utsrushtaihi Kushodakaihi

There are orphans like ancestors who are not contributed to by anyone, ungrateful children are there. For all such ancestors, let my offering go. All the Pitru Yajnaha like Shrāddham or Tarpanam, are great Paropakāra Karma because ancestors are also a vast community.

5.1.1.3. Brahma Yajnaha

The third Yajnaha is called Brahma Yajnaha. This is expressing my gratitude to all the Rishīs who have given the Vedas and other secondary scriptures. Brahma means Vedas here and Brahma Yajnaha means Veda Yajnaha in which I worship both the scriptures and the authors of the scriptures, the discoverers of the scriptures – the Rishīs. It is because of them alone, that I am enjoying this wonderful holistic culture.

And in what way am I going to help these Rishīs ? These Rishīs do not need any help from me as they are already free. They want to spread this teaching in the entire creation. This is their one intention. They have given out the wonderful scriptures and only want the preservation and propagation of this wonderful teaching. Whatever I do to preserve and propagate the scriptures is a very great service. This is because scriptures help the humanity. This is in two ways :-

Firstly, the very sound of the scriptures help the humanity in creating peace. That is why we value Pārāyanam as a great Sādhanā. When I chant the scriptures aloud, the very Shabda, the very Veda Ghosha (loud chanting), purifies the creation. Therefore Pārāyanam becomes Brahma Yajnaha.

Secondly learning and teaching of the scriptural content is beneficial. This propagation of the teaching is called Adhyāpanam . Scriptural teaching is considered to be the best form of Brahma Yajnaha.

Adhyāpanam Brahma Yajnaha
Pitru Yajnastu Tarpanam
Homo Daivo Balirbhoutaha
Nriyagnyo Tithipūjanam

These are the five definitions of Pancha Yajnaha. There is a very big difference between teaching and preaching. Preaching is giving a set of stray discourses on unconnected topics. It is some form of a Satsanga, where somebody shares some through or advices or stories spending some time uttering nice words. This is certainly useful but there is big difference between such preaching and systematic teaching in the form of classes.

In teaching there is a development, connection between every topic and all the ideas are supported through scriptures , logic and experience. So with the help of Shruti, Yukti, and Anubhava support, when systematically the teaching is presented, it is totally difference from preaching. Preaching is useful to inspire. But Brahma Yajnaha is teaching.

The difference is like dumping some bricks in the courtyard. Bricks dumped will not be of any use, they have to be arranged in a systematic manner. Arranged bricks alone will form a house in which you can live. When I give some stray ideas through preaching, I am only dumping some bricks which will not be useful to you. You will have to re-arrange it and make it a total teaching. And you cannot arrange the bricks – a mason is required.

Teaching is not only giving ideas but arranging the ideas in a systematically developed manner so that you have a beautiful vision in which you will get security, peace and happiness. And therefore Brahma Yajnaha is a very important one.

Previously Brahma Yajnaha was there in Gurukula Sampradāya where this teaching was given. But nowadays, this practice is going away. And if it has been revived to a certain extent, the credit goes to Swami Chinmayānanda and Swami Dayānandā. They brought the scriptures in the form of teachings. Previously discourses were there and teaching was only minor. But now in a major scale as a movement, teaching people, taking students and conducting classes and requesting them to write notes and compare notes, ask questions, clarify doubts like a University education has been done by the Swāmis. Brahma Yajnaha is a systematic teaching as this is also a science which has to be thoroughly understood. It is not a set of beliefs to be blindly followed but is a set of teaching that has to be understood.

Thus Brahma Yajnaha also comes under Para Upakāra because

Vidyā Dhanam Sarva Dhanāt Pradhānam

You can give different forms of money, do different forms of charity, but the best among them is Vidya Dānam Brahma Yajnaha. That is why in the end of the Gītā, Krishna says, whoever teaches the Bhagavad Gītā, I love him the most.

5.1.1.4. Manushya Yajnaha

The fourth Yajnaha is Manushya Yajnaha. All forms of social service will come under this. Running orphanages, helping old people who cannot have any help, building schools, hospitals etc.

The problem now is Manushya Yajnaha can replace all the other four Yajnāhā. This is because of lack of proper understanding. This is like saying human beings need only carbohydrates. Manushya Yajnaha, a social service can never be a replacement for others. In addition to Manushya Yajnaha, we have to handle the others also.

5.1.1.5. Bhūta Yajnaha

This is the fifth Yajnaha - Bhūta Yajnaha. All forms of contribution to all living being other than living being – non human living beings. I should remember that all the other living beings are also contributing to my happy life. This has been proved only now by the study of ecology. Therefore I should remember the animals, plants and just as they are helping for my survival, I should also contribute.

Ashvattho Vata Vruksha Chandana Tarur Mandāra Kalpa Drumau
Jambū Nimba Kadamba Chūta Saralā Vrukshāshcha Yeh Kshīrinaha

Sarve Te Phala Samyutā Pratidinam Vibhrājanam Rājate
Ramyam Chaitra Ratham Cha Nandanavanam Kurvantu No Mangalam

Let the banyan, fig tree and sandalwood tree,
Let the flowering coral tree and the wish giving tree,
Let the Jamun, Lime, Kadamba, mango and the pine tree,
Which are the chose ones among trees,
And which daily are fruitful,
And create rules of plenty,
Let the pretty chaithra forest and garden,
Do all that is good to us.

Let me remember all the trees, let me grow and nourish so that they will do Mangalam to the entire humanity.

And not only trees, this applies to rivers as well.

Gangā Sindhu Sarasvati Cha Yamunā Godāvari Narmadā
Kāveri Sarayu Mahendra Tanayā Charmanvati Vedikā
Kshipra Vetravati Mahāsura Nadi Khyātā Cha Yā Gandaki
Pūrnā Pūrna Jalaihi Samudra Sahitāhā Kurvantu No Mangalam.

Let the rivers, Ganges, Indus, Saraswathi and Yamuna,
Let the rivers Godavari and Narmada,
Let the rivers Kaveri, Sarayu who is the daughter of Indra,
Let the vedic river Charmavathi,
Let Kshipra and Vetravati the great river of gods,
Let the very famous Gandaki,
And let the ocean with its completely full water,
Do all that is good to us.

From the rivers in top most India to the rivers in the south, I will remember all your contribution. If will not do any kind of contribution to them, at least I will not pollute or destroy them. So this contribution, if I cannot do in a larger scale, they have a Tulasi tree at home; at least pour water to the Tulasi tree. If you cannot offer to all animals, before eating, at least keep some rice outside – some crows or cows will eat.

This is awareness of the totality. Vaidika means universal citizen. This is because he is aware of this world, he remembers the stars and planet. In the daily Sandhyāvandanam , all the planets are invoked – Ādityam Tarpayāmi, Somam Tarpayāmi, Angārakam Tarpayāmi. He remembers all the planets and the entire solar system. This grand awareness I should have and I should contribute and this is called Pancha Mahā Yajnāha. This is called Nishkāma Karmāni, Sāttvika Karmāni, Uttama Karmāni, Para Upakāra Karmāni – they will contribute to spiritual growth primarily.

5.1.2.Madhyama Karmāni

These are the second set of Karmās. These are all the Sakāma Karmāni also called Rājasa Karmāni also called Para Udāsana Karmāni. Para Udāsana Karma means those actions in which I ignore other people and am indifferent to others where I don’t bother about even their existence or problems. I am concerned only about my selfish karmas. They will help in the material well being but they do not contribute much to the spiritual growth – either nil or limited.

All Kāmya Karmās – selfish Karmas, whether ritualistic or non-ritualistic come under Madhyama Karmāni.

5.1.3.Adhama Karmāni

Finally comes Adhama Karmas, Tāmasa Karmāni, or Nishiddha Karmāni – prohibited actions or corrupted actions or destructive actions or Para Apakāra Karmāni. In this, I benefit but it is harmful to others and these Karmāni not only do they not help me spiritually but also bring us down spiritually.

Hence the first one leads to spiritual Elevation, second one leads to spiritual stagnation and the third one leads to spiritual retrogression. These are the three Karmāni introduced by the scriptures. The scriptures point out that the Karma yogi’s attempt is to change the proportion of the Karmāni in such a way that the Uttama Karmāni are dominant in our lives, Madhyama Karmāni are less dominant and Adhama Karmāni are to be zero. The scriptures point out that even if some inevitable Adhama Karmāni are there, because of unavoidable situations – called Sūna – unavoidable Para Apakāra Karmāni (e.g. using insecticides) they can be neutralised by Uttama Karmāni. Thus Uttama Karmāni help in two ways – they contribute to spiritual growth and also neutralise the Pāpam born out of inevitable Sūna.

5.2. Right Attitude

Any attitude is born out of right understanding. One can never develop a healthy and lasting attitude unless he understands the principles. Whenever you do an action, the moment you do an action, it becomes part of the universe. It has left my hands. And once the Karma has become part of the universe, all the universal laws will act on the Karmas. That is because everything in creation is acted upon by the laws in the universe.

The thus processed Karma is called Phalam. Thus every Karma is processed by the universal laws, becomes Phalam and is handed over back to me. The scriptures point out, all the universal laws are tools in the hands of the Lord to maintain the harmony of creation and therefore when I say the laws are processing the Karmas, it essentially means God is processing the Karmāni through the tool of his own universal laws. Therefore Karma is going to God for processing and is coming from the Lord in a processed form called Phalam.

The moment you know this fact and remember this fact, every Karma becomes Īshvara Arpanam. For an enlightened Karma yogi, every action is Īshvara Arpana and this is called Ishvara Arpana Bhāvanā – born out of this awareness. And when I perform the actions out of Ishvara Arpana Bhāvanā, and when I receive the processed Karma in form of Phalam, I don’t call it Karma Phalam, but I call it Īshvara Prasādaha. Because what comes from God is a Prasāda, therefore sacred, therefore cannot be rejected or criticised and received with a sense of fulfilment.

Hence while acting, Ishvara Arpana Bhāvanā and while receiving the result, Prasāda Bhāvanā, this is called Yogaha. And when I have these two Bhāvanāhā, I enjoy an equanimous mind, Samattvam Yogaha Uchyate because I am enthusiastic in every action. There is no dullness, there is no drudgery or boredom because every action is offering to the Lord. Hence I love everything that I do and accept all experiences in life because they are Īshvara Prasādaha which will lead to Samattvam. Samattva Bhāvanā is the result of Īshvara Arpana Prasāda Bhāvanā. These two put together will lead to very fast spiritual growth. This is called Chitta Shuddhihi.

Chitta Shuddhihi can be put in the simplest context as – I can understand that all my problems in life are not caused by the world, but are caused by my wrong handling of the world because of my ignorance. So the ignorant I handle the world wrongly, and hence I suffer. If I become the wise I, I know how to handle the world which is Nandanavanam – Sampūrnam Jagadeva Nanadanavanam. So ignorant-I is the problem and wise-I is the solution – this diagnosis is the result of Karma Yoga which is otherwise called Chitta Shuddhihi.

Sunday, 30 March 2008

04. Āshrama Vyavasthā

4. Āshrama Vyavasthā

Is the individual scheme in which the life is divided into four stages.
The Student stage
The Family stage
The Hermit stage
The Sanyāsa stage

The Student stage
In this stage, education is the focus. Knowing the importance of both material and spiritual goal.

The Family stage
Emphasis is pursuit of Artha and Kāma – material goal oriented.

The Hermit stage
Transition stage where I prepare for Spiritual goal and gradually withdraw from material pursuit and prepare for spiritual pursuit

The Sanyāsa Stage
When I am dedicated to Spiritual pursuit.

These four stages have to be gone through by everyone, in fact all the spiritual Sādhanāni are only these four stages.

In the last class, we saw about Varna Āshrama Vyavasthā or Varna Āshrama Scheme which is prescribed by our scriptures for the accomplishment of the human goals otherwise called Purushārtha. And we saw that this Varna Āshrama scheme consists of two schemes – one being Varna Vyavasthā or the Varna Scheme and the other being Āshrama Vyavasthā or Āshrama scheme. Of this we dealt with Varna scheme elaborately. Therefore we will see Āshrama Vyavasthā scheme as designed by the Shāstram and more important and relevant than the Varna Vyavasthā.

Āshrama is generally translated as a stage in life and the entire life of a Vaidika is divided into four stages otherwise called four Āshrama - Chatvāraha Āshramāhā. These four stages are
Brahmachari Āshrama – a stage of a student life
Grihastha Āshrama – a stage of a housholder’s life
Vānaprastha Āshrama – a stage of a hermit’s life
Sanyāsa Āshrama – a stage of a monk’s life of renunciation

The above are the four Āshramas mentioned in our Shāstrams. What is the meaning of the word Āshrama? Derivatively seen, the word Shramaha means effort, a deliberate wilful well directed effort. Here the effort is a spiritual Sādhanā. Therefore Shramaha means spiritual Sādhanā or Sādhanā Anushtāna. And Āshramaha refers to a stage of life in which a person practices spiritual Sādhanāni.
Ā Samantāt Shramaha Ādhyātmika Sādhanā Anushtānanam Yasmin Saha - a state in which a person is committed to spiritual Sādhanā. And since the entire life is divided into four Āshramas, according to our scriptures, the entire life is a spiritual journey. Āshrama is not only in the later part of life, it is not a post retirement exercise, the entire life is a series of spiritual Sādhanāni only. The only difference, in each stage the type of spiritual Sādhanā differs. And that is why according to our scriptures the primary and ultimate goal of a human being is spiritual goal only.

Even though we temporarily accept Dharma Artha and Kāma as human goals, but in the heart of hearts the scriptures do not accept them as real goals. They are apparent goals and appear as goals as long as a person is immature. And accepting the viewpoint of an immature person. The scriptures talk about the other three goals, but really speaking there is only one goal that is spiritual. And therefore the scriptures design an entire lifestyle full of spiritual Sādhanā for the realisation accomplishment of the spiritual goal called Mokha. Until he becomes mature, he will practice spiritual Sādhanā without knowing that it is spiritual Sādhanā. Veda prescribe the Sādhanā which are like sugar coated pills so a child consumes the medicine as though it is a sweet but inside hidden is the medicine. Similarly the scriptures prescribe exercises which are seemingly meant for Dharma-Artha-Kāma but the hidden intent is that they will also unknowingly in a hidden manner. Our scriptures also have a hidden agenda. The superficial agenda is Sādhanā for Dharma-Artha-Kāma but the hidden agenda is Sādhanā for Mokha. Since in all the four stages, exercises are prescribed for spiritual goals, all the four stages are Āshrama only. And the spiritual goal is nothing but a freedom struggle, a struggle for internal freedom. But the life is a freedom struggle meant for spiritual freedom otherwise called Moksha.

These four stages are very interesting, because it is very close to the stages which are undergone by certain insects like butterflies. If you study the life stages of a butterfly talked about by an entomologist, they also go through four stages. First is the egg stage, then from the egg, they come ourt as worms called caterpillar voraciously eating leaves and after a burst of activities again they withdraw into a stage of pupa. Similar to the egg stage, the pupa stage also has no activity and it is withdrawal. And from the pupa stage they come out as a full fledged butterfly free to fly. In the butterfly stage alone it is the most attractive one. Now we will see what are these four Āshrama .

4.1. Brahmachari Āshrama

The first Āshrama is Brahmachari Āshrama or student’s life or the life of education. The question is what is the purpose and content of education ? Nowadays when we talk about education, we only mean learning certain professional skills meant for earning. Learning for earning. Only money or earning or entertainment or Artha-Kāma alone are kept in mind when we talk about education nowadays – which particular profession will give maximum salary and if possible minimum work. This is not the approach of our scriptures. Our scriptures accept that there should be learning of professional skills. It is required because we have to earn our livelihood. I should become either Karma Brāhmanaha or Karma Kshatriyaha or Karma Vaishyaha or Karma Shūdra. For the appropriate profession, I should get the knowledge and skills and this education is understood and scriptures accept this.

But according to our scriptures this is only one aspect of education and in fact it is a secondary aspect only that has unfortunately become primary only now. According to our scriptures the primary purpose of education is refinement of a person, character building of a person, transformation of the person so that he will harmoniously fit into the society contributing to both the social and individual growth. If an unrefined corrupt person, a valueless person enters the society there will be only disharmony and problems in the society. And this refinement alone makes an animalistic man governed by instincts will be converted into a humane man , a Man man who is governed by proper ways of living. Swāmi Chinmayānanda beautifully uses the expression, the animal man should be reborn as Man-man. A wild human being should become a tamed or cultured human being and only then a Man man can be converted into a God man.

You would have heard about metals dug out from the earth and when the crude metals are dug from mines they are in crude ore form. This is a crude form that cannot be used by anyone. No doubt they have been extracted out of the earth, no doubt the metal is born, but the metal is only potentially useful and not yet useful. If the metal has to be made useful, it has to go to factory and undergo a set of processes of refinement and the ore should be converted into a refined metal and that alone can be brought for public use. Similarly when we are born out of our mother, our first birth is unrefined crude only potentially useful form. And we should not enter the society without going through a second process called Gurukulavāsā or education system in which I have to get refined. And that is why we say, we all should have two Janmāhā and we should all become Dvijaha. Prākruta Janāhā to Samkruta Janāhā – crude human being to cultured human being, this conversion is the job of education.

And that is why in many Smrutis, two sets of parents are talked about. The biological parents give birth to the crude human being.

Matur Agre Adhijananam Dvitīyam Mounji Bandhanāt,
Tatrāsya Mātā Gāyatri Pitā Tu Āchārya Uchyate.

The first set of parents is the biological parents through whom I am born in an unrefined form. Then I go to my Āchārya or Guru who uses Gāyatri Devi. Gāyatri Devi represents Vidyā or education or Shāstram Jnānam. And this Āchārya is the father and Gāyatri or Sarasvati is the mother. Guru as the father and education as the mother will convert me into a useful refined mature human being.

Therefore education must include scriptural education also according to our scriptures and that is why the very student stage is called Brahmachāri Āshrama. Brahma here means the scriptures or the Vedas. And Chāri is the one who dwells upon. Brahmani Vede Charati. Charati means walks, travels mentally through the Vedic teaching which is nothing but scriptural education. Going through that is Brahmachari Āshrama .

The next question is what type of education should I have for the refinement of the personality. What type of education do the scriptures give to refine me ? Three things are very important.

4.1.1.Understand the Goal

The first thing is I should very clearly know what is the ultimate goal that I am working for. Imagine in a football match, all the eleven people know how to dribble the ball and keep the ball with their team without giving it to the other team. And when they don’t strike any goal, there is no use at all. Remember that I should know, dribbling the ball is not an end in itself, after one and half hours I will be tired but I wont be successful. I should know through the struggles even thought the footballer is handling the ball, he remembers that he has to strike a goal. The whole life is a football match. We are handling so many things like money, family, office etc but the question is what for is all this ? I should be clearly taught and told that the goal is Moksha or I have to convert myself from animal man to Man-man to God Man. This is the purpose and if I don’t accomplish this, I have played football very well, but the result is nothing.

Yaha Ātmānam Aviditvā Asmān Lokāt Prayiti, Saha Kripanaha
Yaha Aksharam Viditvā Prayiti, Saha Eva Brāhmanaha.

(Bruhadāranyaka Upanishad)

Therefore the student must know that the spiritual goal is the ultimate goal

4.1.2.Knowledge of Rituals

The second thing that has to be there is the knowledge of some form of religious worship which is generally known as rituals. This also should be known and understood because many people do not understand the role and importance of worship and rituals. Physical-ised worship is being referred to here. Because rituals or worship are one of the best methods to develop discipline. Wherever rituals are there, religious or material rituals, discipline is bound to come. And wherever discipline is involved, rituals will automatically come. E.g. The army is the most disciplined part of the country and they have the maximum rituals. Greeting, walking, functions in their group and even standing is ritualistic. Discipline and rituals always go together and therefore one requires some form of ritual to develop discipline.

The second purpose is developing dynamism in life. Because laziness is the most natural thing to the physical body.

Ālasyam Hi Manushyānām Sharīrastho Mahān Ripuhu.

Laziness is inborn in the body. Unless we have some physical routine in life the laziness will not go away. Tamo Guna Nivruttārtham. One requires rituals or physicalised routines

The third purpose is to develop devotion to Lord. Devotion to Lord can be developed only by physicallised expression. Devotion is an inner mental feeling like any other emotion. Emotion is invisible. Any emotion has to be expressed and this is by verbalisation or physicallisation or both. The body has its own language of communicating with either positive or negative emotions. This expression not only reveals my emotion, this expression will nourish my emotion also. Thus the expression is not only the effect of my emotion, but the expression can nourish the emotion. Therefore every expression is a cause and a consequence of an emotion. Therefore when I do Pūja, I am expressing my devotion and also nourishing my devotion. Therefore our relationship with the Lord is kept alive and is nourished throughout our life. Ultimately the scriptures are going to teach us that the only permanent relation is the relation with God. All the other human relation, however much carefully you nourish will end someday or the other. If at all there is one permanent relation, that is with God. Therefore that relationship of reverence and devotion, must be kept alive and must be nourished and therefore also physicallised (Pūja) and verbalised (Stotram) worship.

4.1.3.Values of Life

So education must teach me what is the goal, importance of worship and the important values of life. Values of life are the eternal constants of creation that can never be changed.

Dharma is unchanging. It is Shāshvatam Dharma or Sanātana Dharma and are eternal values. I should understand them and I should assimilate them. I should know that I cannot compromise them without damaging my physical, emotional and intellectual health. This has to be understood.

Hence in education, I should know the Goals of life, learn the value of physicalised worship and the Values of life. Once I go through these three stages, I am a refined human being and not a threat to the society.

4.2. Grihastha Āshrama

The Second Āshrama is Grihastha Āshrama . The first two are very important. Grihastha Āshrama or Family life is the next Āshrama which is extremely relevant and important and alive even now. According to scriptures, family life is a religious institution sanctified through a religious process or ceremony meant for a religious life primarily. Family life is a religious institution formed by a religious ceremony and meant for religious purpose only.

Materialistic purposes are incidental by-products only. This is our approach to family life. If we think that materialistic goals like security and pleasure or comfort are the primary purposes, then such a family life will become either unstable or it will soon become irrelevant. And that is why the religious emphasis is getting diluted now and the families are becoming unstable. In many other societies, the very relevance of family life as an institution is being questioned. Because when you look at the family from a materialistic angle, you will get a totally different picture. There are these people called Women’s Liberation who say women have been traditionally economically dependant and not empowered to fulfil her aspiration. And they say that women must be economically independent and empowered and now women are also independent. Then comes the question as to why they need to live together : this is because nobody is dependant on anybody else, no body needs the other one and therefore the very purpose of living together is questioned. Even if we say we stay together because we like each other, unfortunately human likes and dislikes constantly change. And especially in a consumerist society, the philosophy is – do not keep anything for long. Since we are prodded to change, we want to cater to our fickle, entertaining mind the question come – how long can a person love the materialistic things around. Therefore separation beings at the family level. There is no religious cohesiveness – a family that prays together stays together. As long as materialistic purposes are kept in mind, the family will become unstable.

Hence religion is the primary purpose of Grihastha Āshrama. Grihasthaha is derived from Grihe Tishthati – hooked to the house. And once that attitude comes, the family bond is looked as a sacred bond caused by God himself. The bond is a sacred bond determined by God’s will and therefore God alone has the right to dismantle the bond. Only in such an attitude the family will be stable. And then only in a stable family, a person can develop important virtues like tolerance.

Therefore such forcible situations are required for transformation : Titikshā, tolerance, accommodation, forgiveness, trust etc are important virtues that can be developed only in a stable family. Finally, a stable family is required for raising emotionally healthy children. This has been found that when the family is unstable, there is a disharmony and the children sense the disharmony. Therefore Grihastha is extremely important for myself and the next generation.

4.3. Vānaprastha Vānaprastha and Sanyāsa Āshrama

Vānaprastha Āshrama is a training for gradual withdrawal. Because, if we study our physical body itself, it peaks into activity and as we grow older, the physical body cannot get involved in extroverted activities. The physical body withdraws and if there should be no strain, the mind should learn to gradually withdraw. Otherwise there will be a strain in the personality – the mind is highly active and the physical body is not able to implement. All the faculties are either slow or doubtful. Therefore the mind should also learn to withdraw, learn to enjoy seclusion – Antarmukhatvam learning introversion. This is a training period of self knowledge, turning towards the self where I should feel that I have learnt enough of the world and let me now cap the life with the knowledge of myself.

So Vānaprastha stage is a stage of withdrawal, introversion or seclusion. A retiring person has to prepare for the retirement, learning to accept the way of life and not developing any complex. Let the Vānaprastha be the preparation for the Sanyāsa Āshrama which is the next education. Sanyāsa Āshrama is again spiritual education. Brahmachārya Āshrama is value education – Dharma Jnānam. Sanyāsa Āshrama is with an introvert mind, living in seclusion.

Vānaprasthaha means the one who lives in seclusion even within the family.

Vananām Samūhaha Vānam
Vāne Prakarshen Tishtathi Iti Vānaprasthaha.

Sanyāsaha literally means giving up everything, renunciation of everything, primarily renunciation of one’s ignorance and ego by which one is mentally prepared to lose anything in life. Yama Dharma Rāja is going to take everything including our body and before Yama Dharma Rāja comes, one should be prepared to hand over everything in a platter. So this is Sanyāsa Āshrama whether a person physically goes through all these stages or not one should mentally go through all these stages.

And Sanyāsa in a ritualistic form is called Āshrama Sanyāsa in which he physically renounces everything. But whether one physically renounces everything or not, one should surely mentally develop detachment from everything so that he is ready for self-knowledge.

These are the four Āshramas every human being following the religious scriptural tradition should go through.

Wednesday, 26 March 2008

03. Varna Dharma

3. Varna Dharma
- A unique design for peace and prosperity

In this session, we will discuss the important topic of Varna Āshrama Vyavasthā. Varna Āshrama Vyavasthā can be translated as Varna Āshrama scheme. We saw in the last session how the main aim of the scriptures is to help the human being in accomplishing the four fold human goals. The scriptures are willing to help those people who are willing to take the assistance of the scriptures. There is no enforcement. Whoever has got faith in the scriptures, however is humble enough to take assistance in the scriptures, the scriptures provide valuable help for the humanity in accomplishing the four fold goals or Preyas and Shreyas.

For accomplishing these four fold goals, the scriptures provide a particular infrastructure. A country’s progress needs a proper infrastructure like roads and communication. Vedas or the scriptures also understand the role and importance of the infrastructure and the infrastructure presented by the Vedas is called Varna Āshrama Vyavasthā. According to the scriptures this scheme is the ideal scheme in which the society can or the human beings can accomplish all the four Purushārtha. It must be remembered that when Vedas provide a scheme, they keep in mind the spiritual and material goals of life. The western society specialises in providing the infrastructure only for material success – making money and providing entertainment. An infrastructure which suits only the material success is not enough for the accomplishment of spiritual goals. Hence the scriptural infrastructure keeps in mind both the material and spiritual goals of humanity. This is because, according to the scriptures, mere material success is absolutely worthless. This is what Arjuna discovered in the battle field. Even though he was materially rich and accomplished person, his spiritual bankruptcy came into the fore when he faced a crisis in life. And therefore the scriptures say the material success is extremely important but it should be equally balanced by spiritual success also and ultimately what matters is spiritual success. A truly successful person is one who has discovered his real spiritual nature.

And the infrastructure or the social design or scheme given by the scriptures is called Varna Āshrama Vyavasthā. It consists of two schemes, Varna Vyavasthā and Āshrama Vyavasthā. We will first take up the Varna Scheme for our study and then the Āshrama Scheme.

3.1. Varna Vyavasthā

Varna Vyavasthā is a social scheme which is meant for the upliftment of, the growth of, the prosperity of the society as a whole. Varna Vyavasthā is a sociological scheme. It is a Macro scheme taking a society into account whereas Āshrama Vyavasthā is a scheme in which the individual growth and success are kept in mind. The society must also be taken into account as a whole and the individual must also be taken into account because individual put together alone form the society. Therefore a balance has to be struck between the individual and the society. Hence Varna Vyavasthā is a social scheme.

In the Varna Vyavasthā the whole humanity or society is classified into four groups or four classes. Each group is called a Varnaha. And the society is divided into four such groups which we called Varna Vibhāgaha. Varna Vyavasthā is a scheme in which the society is broadly classified into four groups known as Varna Vibhāgaha. And each group serves as an organ of the society if the society is taken as one body. Thus the society is seen as an organic whole having this four fold organs. Those four Varnāhā
· Brāhmana Varnaha
· Kshatriyaha Varnaha
· Vaishya Varnaha
· Shūdra Varnaha

Varnaha can be translated as ‘groups’ for the time being.

What is the basis on which this division is made ? Any distinction can be made based on any characteristic or condition. Thus whenever you talk of classification you should ask what is the basis of classification so that I can determine into which group I belong to. And when we look at the basis of classification, we can see that there are three different bases or conditions on which the society can be classified. The groups will change and my status will change based on the norm of classification.

3.1.1.Guna Vibhāgaha

The first norm on which the society can be classified is character or personality or inclination or trait. In Sanskrit we call it Guna Vibhāgaha – Guna based division of society. And when you make such a division we talk about four types of personalities and based on the type of personality, the person will be called :-
· Guna Brāhmana or
· Guna Kashatriya or
· Guna Vaishya or
· Guna Shūdra
The above classification is purely based on personality.

The next question is what makes me a Guna Brahmana ? What personality trait makes me a Guna Brahmana or Guna Kshatriyaha or Guna Vaishya or Guna Shūdra ?

The four traits given in the scriptures are as follows

· Spiritual Personality
· Dynamic Personality
· Selfishly Motivated Personality
· Lethargic Personality

3.1.1.1. Spiritual Personality

A personality in which one gravitates towards spirituality primarily. One who loves spiritual pursuits, withdrawal, solitude, silence, contemplation, pursuits of the ultimate reality. That alone appeals to that mind. While all the other things in life which the other people consider as very important, for this personality they appear insignificant or even silly. Such a spiritually oriented, contemplative, silent solitude enquiry loving personality or trait is called Guna Brāhmanatvam and such a person is called Guna Brāhmanaha. Sanyāsa appeals to such a mind. Renunciation appeals to such a mind. While for other people, solitude appears as terrible loneliness, a dreadful depressing loneliness, this mind loves solitude. This is called a spiritual personality and whoever enjoys this trait is called Guna Brāhmanaha. In the Shāstrams, the technical word used is Sattva Pradhāna personality.

3.1.1.2. Dynamic Personality

This personality heavily loves activity. Outgoing, active, planning, energetic, dynamic, highly motivated mind are the traits. And this motivation is itself selfless motivation. Interested in activity but not in self-centred activity, not selfish dynamism but interested in contribution, serving, uplifting, helping the society. Such a selflessly motivated mind is called Guna Kshatriya mind – a personality which heavily contributes to the material progress of the society. So we will call it Guna Kshatriya – selflessly motivated mind. In the Shāstrams, the technical word used is Shuddha Rajaha Pradhāna personality. It is active and the activity with noble motives.

3.1.1.3. Selfishly Motivated Personality

This personality is also equally dynamic as the Kshatriya personality. Both cannot think of solitude, withdrawal or Sanyasi and may get angry with Sanyasi. So this type is highly dynamic and motivated, cannot think of silence, renunciation, contemplation but this personality is different from the previous one. This personality is highly self centred – selfishly motivated personality. So every activity has to produce a benefit for oneself and one’s family. This personality would like to amass wealth, and will not think of contributing to the society. So this mind is Guna Vaishya mind. Can be translated as selfishly motivated and dynamic mind. In the Shāstrams, the technical word used is Ashuddha Rajaha Pradhāna personality. It is Rajaha Pradhāna personality, dynamic and active, enthusiastic and motivated, but the Ashuddhi is totally selfishness.

3.1.1.4. Lethargic Personality

This personality is called Guna Shūdra and is passive and lethargic. It has no motivation at all either for material or spiritual success. No Purushārtha appeals to this personality. The mere goals of life is to eat and survive and die. This is a mind which is very close to animalistic mind. A lethargic, passive, motivation-less personality is the fourth type of personality called Guna Shūdra Personality. In the Shāstrams, the technical word used is Tamas Pradhāna personality.

The above are four norms based on which Guna Vibhāgaha or Gunataha Varna Vibhāgaha is done. And we have to decide whether we are Guna Brāhmana or Guna Kshatriyaha or Guna Vaishya or Guna Shūdra. We need not declare it outside, but we can know where we stand.

3.1.2.Karma Vibhāgaha

The next norm of classification is Karma Vibhāgaha of the four Varnas - the fourfold Varnas based on work or profession or contribution done to the society. And all the possible professions are broadly classified into four types of works. These are not watertight and may involve overlap. Each work is important to the growth of the society.

3.1.2.1. Karma Brāhmanaha

The most important one which is being neglected nowadays is scriptural learning and teaching. Scriptural teaching primarily is a very important work, which requires specialisation and dedicated pursuit. We saw earlier, our scriptures are too big. Our scriptures are both extensive and intensive. By extensive, we mean it deals with a range of topics – philosophy, ritual, astrology, ethics, grammar etc. The scriptures are also intensive – they have commentaries and sub commentaries. And all this takes a lot of effort. So unless somebody is there to dedicate their lives to learn and teach, you cannot maintain and preserve. One important job to be done is studying the scriptures in their originals. Translations are often terrible. Not only we have to study the scriptures, to maintain the scriptures it has to be taught to the next generation equally extensively and intensively.

Can every lay person go to the total study of scriptures? To complete the 700 verses of the Gītā, it takes 6-7 years and people find it difficult. Therefore the whole society cannot dedicate to the study of scriptures. Therefore we require a separate group which specialises only on that. They should not have any other job, their only job should be studying all the scriptures and teach the next generation and society in a simplified manner in a contemporary language and interpreting in a way suitable for the present society. E.g. One cannot teach everything in the Brahma Sūtra to the public. One cannot, need not and whole society does not require that. Whatever is required by the society that much knowledge somebody must give. This is like the medical or legal profession. We can have a basic understanding of our health. We need not study the whole medical science, but we require some medical people who have dedicated their life for the medical science and who enlighten the society with regards to the basic laws of health or law. Therefore the entire humanity cannot study the whole scriptures and therefore we require a whole group people who have dedicated their life for the study of scriptures and memorising and chant these. Even chanting of the scriptures is good for the society. The Vedic vibration, is supposed to give help to the society. Therefore a group dedicated to Veda Adhyayanam, Veda Adhyāpanam, Veda Pārāyanam, Veda Pāthanam and Vedic interpretation. Vedic interpretation is important because, what is said hundred years ago, may not be relevant now. So when new situations come, a scripture has to be flexibly interpreted to suit the modern society. And if proper interpretation is to be done, that person should have a holistic vision, a total vision and therefore it is a separate work that requires life-long dedication which is called scriptural teaching. They are the scriptural teachers of the society or consultants and they may have to serve as psychiatrists to the society. This is because scriptures deal with psychological problems also. That work is called Brahmana Karma or whoever takes up that job is called Karma Brahmanaha whose life is confined to scriptures.

3.1.2.2. Karma Kshatriyaha

The second type of profession which is valued now is all forms of public service, administration of the country, governing the society, maintenance of law and order, policing the society, defending the country, army – all these things will come under those activities which are meant for providing the peaceful and appropriate atmosphere for the citizens to pursue their goals. Otherwise there will be no harmony all over. If the individual should pursue his goal, the atmosphere of the society must be maintained. In the olden days, it was the duty of the king, nowadays it is the role of ministers and administrators. And whoever has taken to that profession or Karma is called Karma Kshatriyaha.

3.1.2.3. Karma Vaishya

This refers to all forms of commercial activities, business and trade. This is important for the equal distribution and sharing of the wealth of the requirement of the society. This includes all forms of commercial activities. This karma is called Vaishya Karma and whoever takes to this activity is called Karma Vaishyaha.

3.1.2.4. Karma Shūdraha

In the fourth and final part comes all forms of labour. Unskilled or semi-skilled labour where a person cannot think and there is no leadership but does the activities for some other person. No independent thinking exists but service to other three groups of people is only there i.e. following the leadership of Karma Brahmana, Karma Kshatriya or Karma Vaishya. And whoever takes to such an activity is called Karma Shūdraha.

Therefore, I can be based on my profession, any one of the above. This is the second division called Karma Vibhāgaha and this also comes under Varna Vyavasthā.

3.1.3. Jāti Vibhāgaha

The third division is purely based on the norm of birth, Janma or the family into which one is born. In Sanskrit , birth is called Jātihi. Derived from Jan – to be born. And based on the birth, one can be a Jāti Brāhmanaha if born into a Brahmana family, a Jāti Kshatriya if born into a Kshatriya family, a Jāti Vaishya if born into a Vaishya family or a Jāti Shūdra if born into a Shūdra family.

From three different norms the society can be classified. E.g. a person can be a Jāti Brāhmanaha and if he becomes an MP or MLA he becomes a Karma Kshatriya and suppose if he exploits the position to amass wealth then he becomes a Guna Vaishyaha. Thus one person himself, can be in these three Varnāhā. It depends on the norm that you base. This is the first topic of classification of the Varnas.

3.2. Which is the best ?

Next we will discuss the gradation. Do we have any gradation in the Varnas ? Is any Varna superior or inferior to the other ? In Sanskrit this is called Tāra Tamyam. Now we say, that as far as Jāti Vibhāgaha is concerned i.e. birth wise division is concerned, all the four are equal by birth. Birth cannot give superiority to anyone or inferiority to anyone. Jātitaha Sarve Api Samāhā Eva. Therefore nobody should claim superiority from the standpoint of Jāti. Caste system is the problem caused by the Tāra Tamyam attributed to Jāti Vibhāgaha. In Jāti Vibhāgaha there is no superiority.

Then what about profession ? Karma Vibhāgaha wise, is anybody superior ? Karma Vibhāgaha wise also, all are equal. No profession is inferior or superior, all jobs are equally important. And it is from this angle, the well known Purusha Sūktam mantra occurs,
Brahmanosya Mukham Āsīt,
Bahurajanya Krutaha
Ūrutadasya Yad Vaishyaha
Padbhyagum Shudro Ajāyata

The above is for Karma Vibhāgaha only. Just as four organs have four different functions, the four Varnas have four different functions. The above mantra means :

Brāhmanaha : Teaching professional scriptural teaching.
Kshatriya : Maintenance of Law and Order
Vaishya : Taking care of the economic strength of the society, support system
Shūdra : All forms of labour, more of running around and less of head usage

And by saying that all these four are the four parts of the Lord, we say that all of them are equally sacred. You cannot say that the feet are less sacred than the Mukham. In fact we worship the feet of the Lord. Shankarāchārya is called Bhagavadpādaha and not Bhagavadshiraha. We talk about Pāda Pūja and not Ūru Pūja or Hasta Pūja. Therefore profession wise, there is no Tāra Tamyam. So Jāti Tāra Tamyam Nāsti, Karma Tāra Tamyam Nāsti.

Whereas in Guna Vibhāgaha, there is a gradation. A Guna Brāhmana is certainly superior to a Guna Kshatriya is certainly superior to Guna Vaishya is certainly superior to Guna Shūdra. Because Guna Shūdra is closer to animals and Guna Brahmana is closer to God. And therefore character wise superiority we have to accomplish and whoever has got the higher character deserves Namaskāram . Even though Prahalāda is a born Rākshasa, he can become the most reverential person in our culture. Prahlāda, Nārada, Parāshara – early morning, we are supposed to remember Prahlāda even before Nārada. Therefore birth does not matter, character alone matters.

Therefore there is no gradation in Jāti and Karma Vibhāgaha but gradation is to be recognised in Guna Vibhāgaha.

3.3. Is there a choice ?

The next topic is Choice. Do we have a choice in determining our group ?

3.3.1.Jāti Vibhāgaha

As far as Jāti is concerned, we don’t have choice with regards to this birth, because we are already born. But the scriptures say, we do have a choice with regards to the next birth.

Shuchīnām Srīmatām Gehe Yogabhrashto Abhijāyate.
(Bhagavad Gītā 6.41)

This birth we have already chosen, the next we can choose by our lifestyle. Therefore this only a partial choice.

3.3.2.Karma Vibhāgaha

As far as profession is concerned, Karma Vibhāgaha, we do have a choice. And we can choose our profession from any angle. I can choose my profession based on my
· Svabhāva or character – character or trait based choice of profession. Or I can base it on
· Heredity – birth based or family profession. Or the choice is
· Money based – where there is income.

Our scriptures based on ideal is character based choice. Because you will love your profession and it will not be a burden. Even salary will not matter then because you will love the very work itself. In fact Karma Yoga can be ideally practiced if you love what you do because the very performance gives you satisfaction.

Character based profession is ideal, but if you are not sure about character, then the next best is family based or hereditary profession. There will be no competition or over crowding of certain fields and then some fields will not be neglected. Thus all professions will be protected and there will be no competition.

The worst and negative approach is money based choice of profession. This is the most terrible one because, when money becomes important, corruption will be inevitable in a society where money is God. Hence either go by character or by family. An in fact to a great extent our society was heredity based. Now alone it is gradually changed.

3.3.3.Guna Vibhāgaha

With regards to Guna also, we do have a choice. And all the spiritual Sādhanāni Sādhanā are to improve our Gunāhā to Guna Brāhmanatvam. We all should become Guna Brāhmana ultimately, whatever be our birth or profession. Therefore there is choice in this also. Also note, only because there is choice, it is called Varnaha. Vriyate Iti Varnaha. You can choose your (next) Janma, profession or character, but the choice of character is ultimately important.

Monday, 24 March 2008

02. Shāstram or Scriptures


2. Shāstram Scriptures

In this lesson we will be getting a bird’s eye view of our vast scriptural literature, especially the literature available in the Sanskrit Language. Our entire scriptural literature is generally called Shāstram. The word Shāstram is derived from the root Shās which has two meanings – one to command and the other to teach. So Shāstram means a literature which commands the human beings in the initial stages and then teaches the human beings in the later stages. And by way of commanding and teaching, the scriptures saves a person from all human problems and since it teaches, commands, and thus saves the humanity, it is called Shāstram. Shās means to teach and Trā means to save. ‘Shāsanāt Trāyate Iti Shāstram’ – that which saves the humanity from problems by commandment in the initial stages and by enlightenment in the later stages.

Shankarāchārya compares the Shāstram to a mother. A mother commands the child initially because the child is not mature enough to understand the significance of the commandments. The mother has to even threaten the child. When someone is at a grosser level, the language of commandment and threat is used but when one has grown up sufficiently gradually we remove commandments and threats and they are replaced by teaching, convincing, enlightenment and elevation. Since our scriptural literature does that job, it is called Shāstram. And this vast scriptural literature can be presented in six layers. These six groups.

2.1. Vedas

The first and foremost are the Vedic literature called Vedas in general. The Vedas themselves are a very vast literature consisting of 20,000 and odd mantras. It is a very vast literature and the entire Vedic literature is divided into four books known as Rig Veda, Yajur Veda, Sāma Veda and Atharvana Veda.

Rig Veda consists of Rig mantras which are in the form of metrical composition, poetic compositions or Padya compositions. Yajur Veda consists of Yajur mantras which are prose compositions in the form of prose or Gaddya Rupena. Sāma Veda consists of Sāma mantras in the form of music – Gīti Rūpa Mantra – and it is said that Indian music is derived from Sāma Veda. Hence only the chanting of Sāma Veda is called Sāma Gānam. Atharvana Veda consists of mantras mostly given out by two well known Rishīs – Atharva Rishi and Angiras Rishi. Therefore also called Atharva Veda. The word mantra is used only for Vedic compositions.

More than 20,000 such Vedic mantras are available and they are known as mantras because they are meant for enquiry, analysis and assimilation. Mananāt Trāyate Iti Mantra. Mananam means analytical study. Trāyate means it will protect us if we enquire into that. According to our tradition even mere repetition of the mantras, the meditation on the mantras is capable of helping a person. And the very word Vedas indicates a source of knowledge. It is derived from root Vid to know and the word Veda means a mine of information, a treasure house of knowledge.

Vedana Sādhanatvāt Vedaha
Pramānatvāt Vedaha.

Who is the author of the Vedas? In our tradition we look upon the Vedas as a revelation from the Lord himself. We do not look upon the Vedas as human composition, they are not products of human intellect. They are revelations from the Lord himself, and therefore if you want to talk of the author, God is the author of the Vedas. God does not give out the Vedas directly to humanity, but reveals the Vedas to the humanity through the media called Rishayaha (Rishīs). Thus Rishīs are the intermediaries, the pipelines through whom we receive the Veda mantras. So if you take God as the transmitting station, Rishīs are the receiving centres. The word Rishi is derived from Sanskrit root Rish – to know. Rishati Jānāti Iti Rishihi. In our context we take the Rishīs as the receiving set of the teaching transmitted by the lord exactly like the television. Our minds cannot receive the waves because they are not equipped for that. But if our television set is tuned to a particular channel, then we receive the desired channels. Same way with ourselves. The Lord has transmitted the Vedic teachings in the creation, along with the creation itself, but we do not have the equipment to receive but the Rishīs are considered special beings because of their extraordinary medium. This is because of their Sattva and Vishesha Upādhi, they are able to receive and therefore Veda mantras transmitted by the Lord and received by the Rishīs.

There are many Rishīs who have received the mantras. Hence in tradition when a Veda mantra is chanted, they start by remembering the Rishīs first as an expression of gratitude. Even in the daily Sandhyāvandanam we call upon Savitriyā Rishihi Vishvāmitraha (saying and touching the head indicating remembering the contribution of the sage). Then the meter in which it is composed Nichrut Gayatri Chandaha – touching the mouth, then Savitā Devatā – the deity which is talked about through the mantra. So Rishi – Chando - Devatā Smaranam is compulsory before chanting any Vedic mantra. This indicates that this particular Rishi has received this mantra. Hence Rishīs are called mantra Drashtāraha – those who have seen and received the mantras. They are not the producers or creators of the mantras.

These Vedas were primarily received and transmitted in Shabda Rūpa alone. They were not written. For a long very long time, the Vedas existed only in Shabda Rūpa and not in the form of script and that is why we don’t have a specific script for Sanskrit language. Because it was never written the Rishīs also transmitted to their disciples only verbally and the Shishyāhā have to hear and learn. It was a Karna Paramaparā not a Hasta Paramparā. And since Vedas came down in the form of Karna Paramparā, it is also known as Shrutihi. Guru Sakāshāt Shrūyate Iti Shrutihi. Guru Upadeshena Shrooyate Iti Shutihi – that which is received by hearing. Thus it is called Vedas, Mantra, Shrutihi. Since it is not born out of human intellect, it being of supra-human origin, it is known as Apaurusheya Pramānam. Apaurusheya means not born out of human intellect. Pramānam meaning source of knowledge. So these Vedas form the first foremost and primary scriptural literature. And all the other scriptural literature are based on this Vedic foundation only and that is why our culture is called Vedic culture – Vaidika Sampradāya and we are all called Vaidikas. Hindu is a name given by somebody else. This is layer one.

2.2. Sūtra

The second layer is known as Sūtra literature. This is a literature which is in the form of Sūtra or aphorism - A short pithy instructive saying. Aphorism refers to a cryptic statement which contains lot of ideas in capsule form – nutshell statement or capsule statements.

Alpāksharam Asandigdham Sāravat Vishvatomukham.

This Sūtra literature consists of Vedic teachings only in a codified form. So the function of Sūtra literature is codification and clarification of the Vedic teaching.

Codification means classification and rearrangement based on topics. While Vedas is a vast literature containing several topics strewn all over in an unorganised manner, in Sūtra literature the ideas are culled from various places and they are arranged topic wise, hence a topical classification. E.g. all teachings dealing with individual values, duties and responsibilities, we call it Dharma Sūtrāni. Gruhya Sūtrāni deals with family values, family responsibilities. In Gruhya Sūtrāni there is a slight expansion from individual to family. Then comes literature called Shrauta Sūtrāni where bigger activities meant for welfare of entire society are talked about. This deals with big prayers, rituals and functions not for individual wellbeing but for universal harmony. And one cannot isolate himself from any one sect – a person is an individual, a member of a family and a social member also.

Thus we have a very vast Sūtra literature written by several Rishīs. Gautama Sūtrāni, Āpastambha Sūtrāni, Parāshara Sūtrāni are other examples. These compositions are not given out by God. While the Veda is supposed to be authored by God Himself, the Sūtrāni literature comes out from the human intellect only – Paurusheya Shāstram. The difference is that words belong to the authors but the content is borrowed from the Vedas only.

Clarification is yet another function of the Sūtrāni. If there are certain vague statements in the Vedas, the Sūtrāni will clarify. Similarly if there are seemingly contradictory statements, then the Sūtrāni will resolve the contradictions. Hence codification plus clarifications are done by the Sūtra literature. The very word Sūtram has ‘thread’ as one of its meanings. The literature is called a thread, because it threads the topics contained in the Vedas.

Veda Vākya Kusuma Grathanārtattvāt Sūtrānām.

The Vedic topics are like flowers which are loose flowers strewn all over. These flowers are collected (classification) and are tied and presented in the form of wonderful garland.

2.3. Smrutihi

The Smrutis are generally in the form of poem. It is a metrical literature. As the word Smrutis shows it is remembered wisdom i.e. the Rishīs study the Vedas, Sūtrāni and having gathered all the teachings in the Shruti and Sūtrāni, they again present it in a very elaborate form. In Sūtra literature it is only cryptic presentation, but in Smruti literature it is slightly elaborated. The function of the Smruti is also codification and clarification. Thousands and thousands of verses are written by several Rishīs e.g Manu Smruti, Parāshara Smruti, Yāgnavalkya Smruti. If you take a Smruti book and see the topics, you will see that they are very beautifully arranged. They talk about cosmology – how the creation arose, the duties and goals of life – student, householder, citizen, male and females. The difference between Sūtrāni and Smruti is that the Sūtrāni are cryptic and therefore there can be vagueness whereas in the Smruti, they have got a wider elbowroom to explain. In Sūtra literature, many ideas are implicit. The implicit ideas are made explicit in the Smruti. Hidden ideas are brought to light – Āvishkāraha. This is also an equally vast literature.

Generally our scriptural literature has three different forms.
· Prose : If it is a prose form as in the Vedic literature, there is svara or intonation, which will be useful for chanting.
· Verse : If it is not chant-able prose, then it is in the form of cryptic statements or verse form. This is so that we can learn them by heart. If we want to memorise the entire Vedas we can do that. Sometimes it is in the form of Sūtrāni which is cryptic and short, it is in capsule form to remember.
· Poems : The other form is poems. The entire philosophy is presented in Gītā which we can chant. Philosophy can be chanted. Here philosophy is composed and presented in poetic form.

This is the third layer of literature Smruti Granthaha and this also comes under Paurusheya Shāstram. The composition is human but the content is divine. But in the Vedas the composition and content are divine.

2.4. Purāna

The fourth layer of teachings are Purāna. They are a literature which are in a further expanded form. Purāna are still more magnified that Smruti. The very word Purāna means though it is a very ancient literature, it is relevant even now. It is ancient but not obsolete. Purā Api Navaha. Ancient and ever Fresh and relevant even for the 21st century. You cannot ignore or discard them without losing something. This Purāna literature is also in the form of poems and they also codify, clarify and magnify the topics from the Vedic teachings.

Another important and unique job of the Purāna is that the abstract ideas contained in the previous literature are all concretely presented in the form of stories. Stories written in a very vast canvas. E.g. one value given in the Vedas which will be highlighted in the form of a story and presented in thousands of verses – Harishchandra Purānam whose essence is Satyam Vada – speak the truth. Abstract things are concretised. Audio things are made audio visual. And many of the abstract ideas are symbolised in the form of beings. In Bhāgavata Purānam, Kāma, Krodha, Ahankāra become Rākshasa – personification of ideas. Language of symbolism is used. Hence concretisation, symbolisation, personification and magnification are all done in the Purāna so that the impact of the teaching is intense. Similarly respect for father – Pitru Devo Bhava is elaborated as the story of Rāma or Nachiketa.

Thus we have in the form of stories or elaboration the Vedic teachings clarified, classified and magnified. And most of the Purāna have been written by Vyāsāchārya himself and that is why he is greatly revered by us. Eighteen Purāna running to thousands of verses and eighteen Upa-Purāna running to another thousands of verses. The most popular is Bhāgavata Purānam or Bhāgavatam

2.5. Itihāsa

The next layer of literature is Itihāsa. It means history based literature. The contents of Itihāsa is supposed to be based on what really happened. Derived from Iti – Thus, in this way, Evam; Ha – definitely, doubtlessly; Āsa – it occurred, happened, took place. Even in the Purāna stories, many are supposed to be actual events and the Itihāsa is also supposed to be based on actual events. The Itihāsa are also in the form of poems. Many Pauranikās know them and study by heart. The two main Itihāsa are Rāmāyanam (24,000 verses)– written originally by Vālmīki , and the other Mahābhāratha (1 lakh verses) written by Vyāsāchārya.

Rāmāyana is the life led by Rāma. Rāma is presented as a model of Vedic way of living. Rāmasya Ayanam Mārgaha Jīvita Rītihi. Because models have powerful impact, hence when some teaching is to be given it is given through models.

Mahābhāratha means the story of Bharata Vamsha Rājā. Mahā indicating a vast literature dealing with stories of Bharata Vamsha and through the stories, the Vedic teachings are presented. Here, even though the literature is based on history this should not be taken as pure history. Presenting history is not the primary purpose of the literature. If it were the purpose, all the details should be given exactly. History is taken as a support, the primary purpose is Vedic teaching and therefore history is mixed with fiction also. Some are facts and some are fiction. E.g. Did Rāvanā have ten heads ? The ten heads are representative of multiple personality syndrome – ruler, Rākshasa, arrogance etc. Hence sometimes, fictitious characters are introduced, sometimes symbolic language is introduced.

2.6. Bhāshyam

The sixth and final layer of literature is Bhāshyam literature. This refers to commentaries written in Sanskrit on all the above forms of literature. There are commentaries on Vedas, Sūtrāni, Itihāsa. We also have sub-commentaries and sub-sub- commentaries.

Commentaries are required because our scriptural literature has to be unlocked in an appropriate manner. If you do not know how to extract the teaching, you will have problems with the scriptural literature – develop negative opinion, have misunderstandings. There is a key to unlock this – called Sampradāyaha - the method of opening, unlocking. Hence we generally don’t recommend the translation written on the literature especially by the western people or western educated Indian because by simply going to a Sanskrit dictionary, the true meaning cannot be obtained. There is a special methodology called Sampradāya. Using this Sampradāya, our traditional Āchāryas have written Bhāshya Granthās and Vyākhyāna Granthās. These commentaries are in forms of prose or verse.

Thus all these six layers put together are called Shāstram and the entire Shāstram is meant for only one purpose – helping us in the accomplishment of Purushārtha.


Friday, 21 March 2008

01.Purushārtha – Insight into Human Pursuits

1. Purushārtha – Insight into Human Pursuits

The word Purushārtha means Human Goals. Purusha refers to a human being (male / female). Hence the word Purushārtha can be translated to Manushyārtha. And the word Artha in Sanskrit has several meanings e.g. ‘meaning’, ‘wealth’. In this context it refers to a Goal, destination.

Arthyate Sarvaihi Manushyaihi Prārthyate Iti Artha

That which is sought after by every human being. Therefore any human goal is called Artha.

Hence Purushārtha primarily means Human Goals. The word Purushārtha by itself is used in other secondary meanings also in the Shāstram Shāstrams - Free-Will, Choice, Effort or Endeavour [Prayatna]. By using the word Purushārtha we convey an important idea that these are goals sought after only by human beings, not animals or plants. And because of the availability of Purushārtha, the human beings become different from other animals or plants. And because of the Purushārtha, the human beings are considered superior to all the other living beings.

And how come human beings alone have these Purushārtha ? What faculty of human beings makes him endowed with this unique opportunity to have Purushārtha ? The Shāstrams themselves declare, human beings are no doubt very similar to animals and plants in several respects. There are lots of common features [Sadharmyam], but there is one unique feature that makes the human being superior. This is presented by the Shloka

Āhāra Nidrā Bhaya Maithunam Cha
Sāmanyametad Pashubhir Narānām
Bhuddhir Hi Tesham Adhiko Visheshaha
Buddhya Vihīnaha Pashubhir Samānaha

Human beings and other beings are similar in several respects :-
· all seek food,
· taking rest or sleeping,
· fear of the external world : sense of insecurity and therefore trying to protect self
· propagation of one’s own species
· The differentiating factor is intellect, faculty of thinking, judging, reasoning, projecting the future, farsightedness, planning for future and working for the betterment of the future – the rational faculty.

Since Buddhihi alone makes a human being superior or different from animals, without this faculty of intellect (if you do not have or do not use) the human beings are as good as animals only. And therefore Buddhihi is unique. Because of this extra faculty only, we are extremely self-conscious also, capable of self-judgement, capable of comparing ourselves with other human beings of the same species. The animals are not capable of this. Once a complex is developed, there is a thinking of improving oneself in the future and therefore planning for the future becomes a natural consequence of Buddhihi faculty. Hence, self-consciousness, self complex development, self judgement, and therefore projection of the future hoping that one will be better off. And for the improvement of the future, one starts planning. The plans is cut into several levels of immediate goals and long term goals.

Only humans are capable of having this tendency. All the animals and plants have an instinctive lifestyle. Their entire life is governed by instincts whereas human beings are governed not only by instincts but predominantly by the capacity to choose their future. And because of this choice, the human being entertain a lot of goals and these are called Purushārtha.

The next question is how many such goals are possible ? Any number of such goals are possible, but they can be classified into four categories – Chaturvidha Purushārtha. Any goal to be accomplished will come under one of these four only. The four goals are
· Artha,
· Dharma
· Kāma
· Moksha

1.1. Artha Purushārtha
This starts early in life. In this context, it refers to security. Anything that is procured for the sake of security comes under Artha. By security, only sheer physical survival is being referred to. Right from birth one instinctive and natural urge every living being, including human being, has is the urge to survive. And anything that is procured for the security of the self, those objects which contribute to the security, physical survival will come under Artha. This helps in removing the sense of insecurity. Broadly these are
· Food
· Clothing : this includes clothes for self, helmets for security, seat belts for security, breathing filters.
· Shelter
· Health : fighting all forms of diseases

Anything that is procured to take care of all these four to safeguard the survival comes under Artha Goals. In the beginning, it refers to the security of the self at present. Then it refers to security of the future. This is because in old age, one cannot work or earn and the level of security is not there. In the olden days children were the security for the old age. Taking insurance against the future has to be taken into consideration. Then comes the next layer of security. Once a few things or people have been possessed for security, the next worry is about their security i.e. security of security.

Thus for most of our life, we are busy providing for security. Anything that we do provide for our security comes under Artha Purushārtha or Abhaya Praptyartham – freedom from fear.

The animals also want security but they instinctively take care of this. The Lord provides for this by giving them special properties e.g. skin, hunting skills etc.

Once security is taken care of, there is no threat of survival. Once Artha is taken care of, the next step is Kāma Purushārtha

1.2. Kāma Purushārtha

Kāma means all forms all forms of comfort that is not needed for security but when present, can be enjoyed. When present, one is more comfortable or luxurious. All forms of entertainment are Kāma Purushārtha. No entertainment is needed for survival. Any form of music, dance, drama, TV, travel are examples of Kāma Purushārtha.

This is also sought by animals by instinctively going after comfort. The animals naturally go to shade when under the sun. But in case of human being because of his superior intellect, he plans and entertains himself. Among most of the human being kind, the Artha Purushārtha takes so much time and effort that even passing on to Kāma Purushārtha is difficult.

1.3. Dharma Purushārtha

Dharma Purushārtha can be defined as an invisible form of wealth. This is generally translated as good-luck or good-fortune. When the word luck or fortune is used, it is not something that is sought, but it seems to contribute to one’s well being. This can be in the form of providing Artha or Kāma. It seems to be an invisible form of wealth contributing to your benefit. Hence in Sanskrit it is called Adrushtam (one that cannot be seen) and in Tamil Adishtam.

This Dharma can be acquired by appropriate means (which will be discussed later). Since Dharma or good-luck or fortune is something that is achievable by appropriate method, Dharma also becomes a human goal. It can also be translated as Punyam. This Dharma contributes to our well being in two fold ways

One way is, Dharma contributes to our well being in this very life itself, by providing Artha and Kāma. Therefore Dharma is very useful in this life because it contributes to one’s well being in addition to one’s own effort that also contributes to the Artha and Kāma.

Secondly Dharma also contributes to our next birth. This is particularly applicable to the initial stages of life. During births, the initial few years are certainly not under our control. This includes what type of parents, what family I am born into, what environment, type of upbringing. These factors during the initial stages of life, are certainly not under our control. These are supposed to be determined by Dharma. The Dharma that one acquires now, not only helps in this birth but also in the initial few years of one’s next birth. This is by providing good parentage, environment, food, clothing, good values etc. A child’s life is heavily determined by the invisible wealth called Good Luck.

The initial few years of human life is so important that it can even determine the future adult life. Many of the emotional conditions in the adulthood are heavily determined by the childhood. Therefore, adult life is determined by childhood life, childhood life is determined by Dharma Purushārtha of the previous life. Thus Dharma directly influences one’s present life, influences the future childhood life and Dharma indirectly affects one’s future adult life also. Hence Dharma is extremely important. There is an appropriate way of earning [Sampādanam] Dharma.

Hence Artha Kāma Dharma is otherwise called Dharma-Artha-Kāma. Dharma is the subtle powerful one and is enumerated first. These three human goals have many things in common and put together, they are called Preyas. Preyas means Dharma + Artha + Kāma. Also called Bhoga. Anything that is acquired deliberately, legitimately, with planning is called Preyas.

1.4. Moksha Purushārtha

This is the fourth human goal. Moksha is also known by the name Mukti or Shreya. Moksha can be translated as freedom. This is an inner freedom, freedom from slavery with regards to Preyas or Dharma-Artha-Kāma.

How is a man a slave to Preyas or anything in this world? Any object or person in this world enslaves us in two ways.
· An object can enslave by its very absence. When that particular object or person is not there and one feels an absence, emptiness or worthlessness then that object is capable of enslaving us. Because of this, we are obsessed with that object’s absence. In Sanskrit it is called Shūnyatā Dvārā Abhāvaha Badhnāti.. There is a feeling of missing or lacking or vacuum.
· An object can also enslave by its very presence. Things bind us by their presence by creating burden, strain or tension.
· Some objects create problems by their absence and presence. E.g. money.

This slavery with regards to Preyas or external goals is a bondage. Freedom from this slavery, or Self-mastery. I am no more a Dāsa but am a Swāmi. Sāmitvam means that when things are absent, there is no vacuum and when things are present they are not burdensome. Moksha means comfort with and without Dharma-Artha-Kāma. This inner strength, inner maturity, inner mastery is called Moksha or Shreyas.

The first three (Dharma-Artha-Kāma) are secondary Purushārtha while the last one (Mokha) is primary Purushārtha. In the former (Preyas), slavery continues, while in the latter (Shreyas) alone one is no more a slave of anything.

The above are the Chaturvidha Purushārtha.

Thursday, 20 March 2008

Introduction to Vedanta

Hari Om.

Thanks for visiting the blog. After the introductions here and here, it is now time to proceed with the next step – starting the course “Introduction to Vedānta”. We will start our course of Vedānta in the next few sessions. Our study will be based on the framework provided by a scriptural work called Tattvabodha.

Tattvabodha is a work in prose form, that has been attributed to Shankarāchārya. There is still some debate as to whether it is Ādi Shankarāchārya or another Āchārya in the Paramparā. But this detail need not worry us. What should be kept in mind is that Tattvabodha is a fundamental and important work in understanding higher texts of Vedānta like Bhagavad Gītā, Upanishads and Brahma Sūtra. Tattvabodha introduces us to important terms used in Vedāntik scriptures which every ardent student of Vedānta should be aware of. The following posts on the blog are taken from Swāmi Paramārthānanda’s classes in Madras.

However we will not be seeing the word for word translation of Tattvabodha, here. Tattvabodha in its original form, assumes that the student has already got a strong knowledge on the fundamentals and is aware of the basic technical terms used throughout the scriptures. But this may not always be the case. There are many of us who may be interested in the subject but do not know where to start from, what to focus on and to what depth we should study initially. Swāmi Paramārthānanda has addressed this issue very beautifully in this course of study.

Using Tattvabodha as a framework, Swāmiji first explains the basics by talking about our scriptures, Varna Āshrama Dharma, Yoga, principle of God etc. After dealing with these fundamentals, Swāmiji then takes up Tattvabodha addressing each topic in the proper sequence. Swāmiji walks us thorough the important concepts and technical words used, which will then form the basis for future study of Vedānta.

Hence, this course is more aptly called “Introduction to Vedānta”. This course is suited for anybody who has got a thirst to understand our Vedic scriptures and does not know where to start from.

Let us start this vital and basic study by offering our prayers to Goddess Sarasvati.

सरस्वति नमस्तुभ्यम वरदे कामरूपिणि
विद्यारम्भं करिष्यामि सिद्धिर्भवतुमे सदा


Sarasvati Namastubhyam Varade Kāmarūpini
Vidyārambham Karishyāmi Siddhirbhavatu Me Sadā

O Goddess Saraswati, salutations to you, the giver of boons, the one who fulfills all desires. I begin my studies. May there always be accomplishments for me.