'Text-days' are for delving into the words and theory of Advaita Vedanta.
[You are reminded that reviewing the previous week's posts will become essential as the meanings of the Sanskrit terms may not be repeated. There may come additional or alternative meanings, but all should be noted. As study progresses, the technical terms must necessarily become 'second nature' to the student. When the Sanskrit is used, the translation will fall easily into place - or likewise, if the English is used, the Sanskrit term must easily come forwards.]
Please revisit THIS post and chant the mangala-charana. The chanting for the oncoming posts was given last week - use the TattvabodaH label to access all posts relevant to this text.
We are currently studying the text on the shamaadhi-shatka sampatti. You may wish also to review the chanting of this section, which you will find here. Picking up from titiksha we now move on to shraddha.
श्रद्धा कीदृशी गुरुवेदान्तवाक्यादिषु विश्वासः श्रद्धा। /shraddhaa kiidR^ishii? Guru-vedaanta-vaakya-adiSu vishvaasaH shraddhaa. What is the nature of shraddhaa? Faith in the words of the guru and Vedanta (scriptures) is shraddhaa. In this stanza, we see immediately that the Guru is given prominence. Certainly the scriptures are of great importance to the spiritual aspirant, however, to truly get to the kernel of their meaning and influence, it is equally, indeed more important, that we have correct guidance in the matter. The key point for either of these things though, is that the sadhak must have faith.
There are more explorations of shraddha in its fullest to come, but here at novice level, Shankaraacharya emphasises the simple, straight-forward idea of faith in the form of trust.
We all have basic faith. Faith that when we go to sleep, we will awake. That when we go to the hairdresser, they will treat only our hair not cut our ears. Faith underpins so much that we do each and every day. When we live in doubt, we are living without faith. To have a predominance of doubt in life leads to disturbance and stress within us. When it comes to faith of the spiritual kind (or any higher ideal) it is important that it is not 'blind' faith. To follow an ideal or leader without at all questioning and enquiring deeply into the benefits of such following, simply to act as if a puppet, is blind faith. True faith in anything means that we have applied our intellect, assessed and understood it clearly, so that when the wind blows, our bough does not break! Blind faith causes trouble as it breeds fanaticism and superstition. True faith frees us to be open to all whilst remaining firm in our own ideals.
|Sw. Advaitananda, Chinmaya Vibhooti |
(c) Yamini Ali MacLean
In the stanza under study we find that if we attempt to travel too deeply into Vedanta without the light of guidance which comes from a true Guru it is entirely possible to become bogged down in some detail or other and make our own interpretation (which may or may not be correct) and run the risk of damaging our own progress.
Of course this brings up the issue of 'who is सत्गुरु /sat-guru (true teacher)? There is a proliferation within India (and now globally) of false gurus. Anyone can put on a the saffron robes or shake a Bible around and spout scripture… but many of these types (even if they started out with true hearts and fine ideas) then seek material compensation and exaggerate the mystical and magical aspects for their own benefit only. Their own ego blinds them and they lead their followers astray. So many folk fall into the traps of such superstitious and controlling behaviours. Cults form. Folk who become entrapped in such as these have not truly asked questions and thought things through - they are simply looking for others to provide the answers (and many other complex things are involved which are to do with praraabdha; not on topic for this post.)
However, it is said (and this holds in all traditions) that when the student is truly ready for the teacher, that teacher will appear before them. When we are in their presence and hear their words, if at all we have any concept of the scriptures from our own study of the essence of truth, then we will feel the underlying vibration of Brahman/OM. We will feel the Love which binds us.
For the modern and particularly for the Western mind, the idea of submission and trust in a teacher is not just 'foreign' but, because ego is strong, anathema! This does not pertain to the bending before elders and betters of Eastern tradition. Due to the misuse and enforcement in Indian culture of the touching of feet, many now will rebel against it. Prostration and submission to a Guru does not have to be external expression - indeed, to bow before such without at all feeling that submission within our heart is nothing more than show. It is the submission of our ego-selves and acceptance that such a teacher will only have our genuine interests at heart which is being spoken of here.
There comes a point when one has become fully convinced - not merely because we are captured by the words but because we have thought about them , meditated upon them, matched them to our experience and so on - that to fall to the feet of the Guru not only becomes easy, it seems the only right thing to do. That sense of surrender within and the feeling of being lifted up along the path as we struggle with our inner hurdles is as strong a bond as with any parent; in some ways stronger! When we have faith in the Guru, faith in the scriptures becomes relatively simple. Even when we do not understand at first, our faith will carry us through correct enquiry in order that we do understand. At the time of full understanding, it can be said that our knowledge has been added to. This in turn brings greater faith.
Thus, this line asks us, having found a teacher of some worth, who has a proven 'track record' and who exemplifies what they teach, that we honour them with our faith and service, with Love in our own hearts for the Guru's teachings and the words upon which s/he expounds, the scriptures of Vedanta.
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