'Text-days' are for delving into the words and theory of Advaita Vedanta.
We are now studying Aatmabodha. As always, with each week, you are encouraged to review the previous teachings and spend some time in contemplation of the meanings as the affect your life. Please do consider purchasing the text.
प्रातः स्मरामि हृदि संस्फुरदात्मतत्त्वं
सच्चित्सुखं परमहंसगतिं तुरीयम्।
तद्ब्रह्म निष्कलमहं न् च् भूतसंघः॥
praataH smaraami hR^idi saMsphuradaatmatattvaM
saccitsukhaM paramahaMsagatiM turiiyam.
yat svapnajaagarasuSuptamavaiti nityaM
tadbrahma niSkalamahaM na cha bhuutasaMghaH..
In the early hours of the day I meditate upon the essential Self clearly experienceable in the heart-cave; that which is Existence-Knowledge-Bliss in nature; that which is the Supreme Goal, the Paramahamsa state, that which is the fourth plane of Consciousness, which constantly illumines all experiences in the waking, dream and deep sleep conditions; I am that partless Brahman, not (this) assemblage of matter envelopments.
All study, as mentioned in yesterday's NBS post, begins with a devotional prayer. That Sahanaa Vavatu ought always to be chanted, regardless of the what is being studied - and not only at the start of a text, but at each and every sitting to study. It is to bring the mind into focus on the work at hand. Beyond this, each text may have a prayer specific to it. At the very beginning of Aatmaabodha we find this meditational prayer. Note 'meditational'… just because the prayer is found at the beginning of this particular text does not mean that it can be chanted only then. As you see, it is a general affirmation of the purpose of this study and states clearly what is expected to come from such study. It points to the ultimate goal. Therefore this is also a very useful verse to use in meditation itself. If you have been following the AUM-day posts, you will recall that Gurudev advised to have a number of short tracts of scripture (shlokas) memorised, ready to jump into when the mind is misbehaving. This is one such. It is, in fact, the first verse of a full hymn by Sri Adi Shankara, and the sound-clip provided here holds the whole of it. To see the full script and translation, you may read HERE.
Is this a distraction, a wandering down a the side road? Not at all! It is true we have a text to puruse, but it is also important not to loose sight of the wider picture. Saadhana is about building the Divine into life and there are few better ways of doing so than by settling to a few prayer chants in the morning and before undertaking any spiritual reading/learning activity. It is the aachaarya's task to ensure that all are engaging in saadhana and finding that it is making a difference in their lives. This is a 'breathing' thing, an activity; not simply an intellectual pastime.
When one moves up a class at school, it is expected that you come into the higher group with at least a passable grasp of the subject in hand. This has not changed through the centuries, for Shankara-ji begins this text with a mangala charana and anubandha chatushtayam…[recall these terms? This is where your notebooks will start to return service!]
तपोभिः क्षैणपापानां शान्तानां वीतरागिणाम्।
tapobhiH xaiiNapaapaanaaM shaantaanaaM viitaraagiNaam.
1: This treatise on the Self-Knowledge is being composed for those who have purified themselves by austerities, who are peaceful in heart, who are free from cravings and who are true desire for liberation.
Contained within this clear declaration we find the four requirements (chatushtayam) which tie the sishya to the Guru (anubandha); "you have come here to learn and as such, the teaching will be given; however, it is expected, if you are to gain the best advantage of it (ie a possibility of moksha), that you will have applied the basics of spiritual life including control of diet and behaviours (tapobhiH - austerities), that you have practiced meditation and are feeling at peace in your mental state (remember that in this tradition, mind = heart), that you have curbed all lustful tendencies (no place for कामिनी काञ्चन कीर्तन /kaamini, kanchana, kirtana - desire, women, song - here) and that you have developed a genuine interest in pursuing a worthwhile spiritual life."
Shankara knew his students! He was a most erudite and alert teacher, but he was also prepared to speak plainly. He knew that the human creature is inclined to think it knows more than it does, that it wants to rush ahead, no matter the risk to a heavier fall. With 'tapobhiH', he is also reminding us of the saadhana chatushtaya, those four wonderful pointers on the spiritual compass which help us apply the teachings in our daily life.
He understood that many would have read widely, perhaps to the highest shelf in the library, but all that book knowledge may have made not one iota of difference to that state of the reader's being. In the study of philosophy, mere book knowledge will be ineffective when that fellow returns to every day life. There has been no practice of application. Every earnest seeker must digest the knowledge such that it becomes a firm conviction, translating into action (mumukshutvam).
Thus, the author has clearly stated the target audience for this book. As always, anyone can read it, but those with the appropriate qualification and alertness will gain the most benefit.
What is the aim of the text? Nothing short of aatmaabodha - Realisation of the True Self. Union with the Divine. Thus the promise (sambandha) is made.
[NB; chanting clip will be provided next week.]