Adventures in Advaita Vedanta, the philosophy and science of spirit. We are one you and I; are you curious why?..


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Hari OM
'Text-days' are for delving into the words and theory of Advaita Vedanta.

This month the prayer of focus will be the Mahaa-MRtunjaya Mantra. 

Having seen extended meaning of the first to words of the mantra, let us proceed…

Sugandhim follows next and is an adjective; it describes how sweet-smelling is this Lord Shiva. Straightforward compliment? Yes, but this also has the context of prompting our awareness that in our sense of smell, everything which we sniff is nothing but the Lord Himself!  This, of course, means that even the less-than-sweet odours of the world are a part of him; but is that not true of all of us? Importantly, especially in the context of this prayer for the sick and needy, it reminds us to think only of His Sweetness that He might shed some of it upon us and those we for whom we pray. This word, then, also points to the All-Pervasiveness of the Higher Essence. It helps us to remember that little ego-selves are nothing, compared to That. Another facet is that, when crushed in the hand, a flower will leave its fragrance upon the skin; the flower has given of itself even in its being crushed. This equates to Forgiveness; a major part of any healing.

Pushtivardanam is another adjective. Nourishment and growth are being attributed to the Lord. How does He nourish our growth? By chanting the mantra correctly the vibrations themselves help to tune our mind to a more peaceful wavelength. Here we think more clearly and raise our inner standards. By using the word 'pushti' in this compound, the beseecher is also acknowledging that the Lord is the generator of all that is perceived  and not perceived and by attuning to this vibration we also can 'manifest'; thus, whilst this is a mantra to overcome materialism, it also results in prosperity - but not necessarily in the way we expect.

Urvarukam Iva bandhanaat mRtyor mukshiiyam'amRtaat - as a sentence can be translated as 'may I be released from this bondage called death, just as the cucumber.' Odd? No; the cucumber - indeed any fruit - needs to be picked or harvested and freed of its connection to the vine which gave it life… the analogy is that this life and the world as we perceive it is our 'vine' upon which we have become dependent and attached. The Rsis advised never to pick an unripe fruit, for it hurts the plant; a ripe fruit, however, readily gives up its attachment! Therefore, the supplicant is begging to be seen as ripe and ready to leave behind the bondage of the world. Many in the tradition have mistaken this to mean that chanting the prayer over a sick elder, for example, will release their spirit and ease them into death; to be fair, if that is appropriate for that jiva, this is indeed the case. However, this prayer is for all ages and all conditions and is more in reference to the fact that to live a better and healthier life will require surrendering attachments and taking up improved viveka and vairaagya; discernment and detachment. Thus, the mantra is suggesting that, apart from the body, our whole being is diseased by this attachment. By surrendering to the will of the Lord, only the best outcomes can be expected. It is to remembered here that sometimes, the best outcome is indeed to leave the body. However, the 'mRtyor' of this mantra does not specifically relate to physical death as we understand it. To transform our lives by living divinely, leaving our old habits and dropping all which is of no use to us is the equivalent of' 'dying' to the world. In Christianity, it would be called 'born again'. Thus the prayer is also for this spiritual transformation. The highest stage of which is moksha (mukshiiya); liberation. Liberation from the mistaken attitude we have about what life is and how individual we are. Knowing our True Nature frees us, even is we still retain the body. Sorrows are seen for the pinpricks that they are, joys are known as distractions from purpose… this is a blissful state indeed, thus the prayer ends with the plea 'm'mRtaat'… not to fall back into old ways and habits and lose the bliss of this freedom.

Thus, like so many of the key mantras, we find that there is a completeness of scripture within it! The mantra can be listened to and much strength and calm will come from it; however, to maximise the benefits, consider working on pronunciation and metre (per that vid clip provided earlier), inculcate the meanings and deeper significance given here; sit in aasana and focus inwardly. Feel the depth and breadth of the mantra.

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Hari OM
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