Bliss – The Source and Meaning of Life: By Michael Bowes

This article was originally written on May 9, 2006 and posted by Michael Bowes on the old HS blog.

Picture below is by long term HarshaSatsangh member Alan Larus at http://www.ferryfee.com/tree.htm

One weekend in the early 1990s, my friend Narayan and I went to Saint Louis, Missouri to visit with Swami Chetanananda. Narayan and I have known Swami since the late 1980s. On Sunday morning of that weekend we were eating breakfast with Swami and the other residents of the temple, and according to the custom there, we were all reading a portion of the newspaper.

When reading the paper, Narayan nearly always goes straight to the “funnies”.

We were all reading and eating. Swami was at the head of the table, I was to his left, and Narayan was to my left. At some point Narayan nudges me and hands me the funnies. He pointed to the “Donald Duck” comic strip.

Donald Duck was in the Himalayas searching for his guru. And there were signs posted in the mountains that said “Guru”, and then an arrow would be pointing to a certain direction. And Donald followed the signs and arrows until finally, at the top of a mountain peak sat the guru with a personal computer in front of him.

Donald Duck asked the guru, “What is the meaning of life?”

The guru didn’t answer; but the computer started printing out something that couldn’t be read on the comic strip.

The gag was that personal computers were becoming the rage, and now even the guru was using one to divine the mystic truths.

But another peculiar thing was that Narayan and I were searching for a guru and a spiritual home; and now, thanks to Donald Duck, the stage was set for that possibility.

I nudged Swami and handed him the funnies while pointing to the Donald Duck comic strip. He read it and handed it back without saying a word, and continued to eat breakfast. After breakfast Swami went to prepare for his weekly public talk. The rest of us cleaned up after the meal and relaxed until the beginning of the service.

Swami began his Sunday morning talk and I really don’t remember the topic; but near the end he announced that he was going to reveal the “Meaning of Life”. He was going to reply to the question in the funnies.

Swami started by saying, “The meaning of life is bliss.”; and the following is a very loose paraphrase of what he said to explain that statement:

There is an “ocean of bliss” that is the source, the cause and support of all that we see; And in its manifest forms that bliss is experienced as amrita, rasa, love, joy, happiness, fun, hope, peace and even as pain and suffering. Pain and suffering serve as motivation for us to find a way to return to our original state of bliss.

We were all born from bliss. We arrive in this world because one day or one night our parents engaged in a blissful activity, and as a result we were born. From that day on, all of our conscious and even subconscious activities are meant to help us either directly or indirectly to achieve bliss and happiness.

As children all we really wanted to do was play. Our true unconditioned nature is playful. But, as we start to get a little older, we are forced to go to school and we are conditioned by society to perform certain useful functions.

But bliss, happiness, satisfaction, etc. are still the primary objective of all of our behaviors. Our parents and our society force us to go to school so that we can get a job, so that we can earn money, so that we can be happy.

We marry because we believe that another person will fulfill us and make us happy. We have children because we think that will make us happy. Everything that we do is ultimately for happiness and bliss. Even so called, “selfless love” only serves to satisfy ourselves. We believe that by performing our self-ordained duties that we will be satisfied.

A short time after I heard these words from Swami, I directly experienced that “ocean of bliss”. Our own true nature is something that cannot be imagined, and it is truly inexpressible. Since then, even though I have gone through some dark times, it isn’t possible for me to worry or lose my connection to that blissful being, the “ocean of bliss” that is our own true nature. And I have a lot of fun. I can’t seem to avoid it.

I began to experience this truth because of an encounter with the “funny paper”.

Love and peace to all,
Michael Bowes

The Path to Enlightenment: By Dr. Harsh K. Luthar

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A Popular Dichotomy

A popular dichotomy has emerged about Enlightenment in the West since the 1970s between the schools of “gradual enlightenment” and “instant enlightenment”. Some of this can probably be traced back to Poonja ji’s and Nisargadatta Maharaj’s disciples returning to the west in the 1970s and 1980s from India and bringing their understanding of Advaita Vedanta with them as given to them by their teachers. However, because many of these students deviate from traditional Advaita as taught in the classic lineage of Adi Shankracharya, they are referred to as neo-advaitins.

Given this thesis and antithesis between the gradual path and the direct path, I address the following question:

It is said that there are two approaches to the Truth of Being or Reality which some call Enlightenment or Self-Realization. A gradual path and a direct path. What is the truth of it? Are their really two paths? If not, which approach is the correct one? What road should a seeker of truth take?

First we look at the two paths and what these are about.

The Gradual Path

In the gradual path, one engages in meditation and other spiritual practices and disciplines, refines and purifies the mind over time, and is able to rise above the body limitations in ecstatic and trance states.

At some point, the mind beholds the divine directly or is able to surrender itself and be absorbed in the divine. Most yoga paths in various Eastern traditions fall into this category. One can check the ancient Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras for reference.

Such schools of thought are also common to Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, and other religions as well. In these traditions, personal prayers, effort, and practice to reach the supreme divine is emphasized and considered vital to success on the spiritual path.

Criticism of the Gradual Path

The yogic paths and meditative approaches based on effort are criticized by the proponents of the direct path (the neo-advaitins) as being misguided.

The advocates of the direct path point out that since Advaita Vedanta states that the Self is always realized, expending effort to find it, is itself counterproductive. Their essential position is that since any effort towards enlightenment is based on ignorance, it cannot lead to true understanding or Enlightenment.

If I were to frame the objection of the neo-advaitin to the gradual path in the form of a question, it would be this: ” How can spiritual effort based on the false assumption of ignorance lead to the Truth of Reality?”.

Logically, It is a quite a beautiful and a powerful assertion.


Criticism of the Direct Path

On the other hand, the “direct path students and teachers” are viewed by many traditional yogis and practitioners of meditation as deluded individuals who at best have convinced themselves due to the power of sheer ignorance that they are enlightened. Such self-deception in the long run is bound to prove frustrating and disappointing to themselves as well as those unfortunate enough to fall for their hype of “Instant Enlightenment”.

Many traditional practitioners also claim that the “direct path teachers” tend to be on power trips and underneath the facade of their “Enlightenment” lies the basic human nature of greed and the hunger for power and the usual sexual and financial exploitation of those who follow them. They point to numerous examples of this happening in various spiritual communities and satsangh circles.

Unfortunately, the traditional practitioners and gurus are also not free from such issues. So neither can win the argument on the ground of excessive purity in behavior and conduct.

Support for Both Schools of Thought Exists

Such criticisms and counter-criticisms that the practitioners of two schools hurl toward each other all appear to have some degree of validity. Both schools also have their own particular strengths. An integrative understanding can lead one to relax one’s position on such matters.

In the direct path, the insight or the revelation is sudden like thunder. Truth of the Self appears as lightning and illuminates one’s being in a flash. The ignorance drops away as if it never was and one is at ease with one’s nature. Buddhists call it the Original Face, the Buddha mind, or the Buddha nature. Hindus and Jains call it Atma Jnana, Kevala Jnana, or Moksha.

There are various examples of this particular mode of thought in Hinduism and other religions as well. In this approach, for many, the Grace of God or Guru becomes the focal point on the spiritual path and the role of personal effort is downplayed. Support for this is found in the Upanishads (sacred scriptures of Hindus) where we see statements like, “Self reveals Itself to whom It chooses.” For reference, see the Katha Upanishad, where Yama, the Lord of Death, explains to Nachiketa,” The Self cannot be known through the study of scriptures, nor through intellect nor through hearing learned discourses. It can be attained only by those whom the Self chooses.”

On the other hand, in many schools of Hinduism, the emphasis is on works and on spiritual practices such as meditation, pranayama, fasting, etc. Similarly, in Jainism, the spiritual aspirant must bravely work out his/her karma (destiny) in this world following the path of forgiveness, compassion, and nonviolence. This was demonstrated over 2600 years ago by the Tirthankara Bhagavan Mahavira who bore physical and mental hardships with a feeling of amity and nonviolence towards all living beings. Eventually, as his karma dropped, the heavy burden of his soul becomes lighter and led to Self-Realization and Kevala Jnana (Which Jains view as Omniscience).

We see that in Jainism, the actual working out of karma through indifference to suffering, doing good deeds and by cultivating universal love for all beings is emphasized. The same is true in most schools of Hinduism. Even in Buddhism, originally Buddha taught the doctrine of effort and walking the spiritual path with care and compassion. Buddha’s last words to his students are said to be, “Work out your salvation with diligence.” Essentially, Buddha was saying to his students that after receiving his teachings, it was up to them to walk the path and attain their Buddha nature.

Where is the Truth in this Forest?

So then where lies the Truth of Enlightenment? Is the Truth of Realization achieved through walking the path gradually and carefully while engaging in spiritual practices? Or is Realization attained suddenly through a Zen like Satori or when the Zen master does something strange and shocking as depicted in many Zen stories. Can Realization really come unannounced knocking at the door as was the case with Sri Ramana Maharshi?

Sri Ramana, the great sage of Arunachala, has simultaneously endorsed both perspectives and said that the Truth of the Self is indeed simple and within everyone’s grasp. We simply mix the underlying feeling of “I AM” which is there in all of us (and always the same from childhood to old age) with the circumstances of our life, and the ever changing currents and patterns of our mood and personality.

The self-feeling of existence, the “I AM” which animates our life and consciousness and gives light to identity becomes invisible and goes in the background as we become captivated with our perceptions and invest in our daily relationships. That is only according to nature, and one is meant to engage in these things.

All relationships inevitably end. Even when we love someone dearly and they love us, eventually we are separated through circumstances, old age, or illness. If someone is married for 50 years, there is no guarantee that they will make it another year or another 10 years. In due time, one person will pass away due to old age or illness or another cause.

Coming together and separating are the nature of life. Underlying all these events and relationships is the silent presence of “I AM”. If we are paying attention we can feel it. In our quiet moments it comes upon us and we can stay with it. The truth is so simple and ordinary and that is why we take it for granted. If we remain with this self-feeling of existence, the stainless “I AM” free from the contents of the mind, we can come to see the value and beauty of it. It is only pure being. Our own being.

The Role of Spiritual Effort

The spiritual effort needed in terms of meditation and inquiry, to make the mind subtle and to refine the intellect so that this simplicity of being can be grasped with immediacy and certainty, should not be dismissed.

If some people do not need such efforts and can recognize the truth of their being immediately by hearing someone restate or paraphrase what the ancient sages have said, that is wonderful indeed. It shows that their mind already had requisite subtlety, depth, and maturity.

The Sense of Being I AM: The Open Secret

If there is a deep sense of quiet within, it can be like a mirror and we can see the image of “I AM” reflected in the mind. I am reminded of that passage where God said to Moses, “I AM That I AM”. I am not a scholar or religious expert but sometimes it seems to me that this is a symbolic message telling us to pay attention to the “I AM” within because it is God sitting in our own being and Heart saying, “Here I AM, I AM, Come to Me”.

It is said that man (woman) was made in the image of God. If the nature or identity of God can be described best as “I AM THAT I AM” it stands to reason that the nature of Man (Woman) is also similar. Our essential nature can be captured by this feeling we all have; the simple feeling of being-existing, free from conflicts, “I AM”. According to Advaita, this “I AM” within us is the link to God. Prayer, meditation, contemplation all make us reflect on this sense of being within us.

The Sahaj State

The state of the Self is natural. Easy and natural because the Self remains as It Self. It is devoid of sorrow and has nothing to attain being whole and complete and what the Advaita scriptures refer to as One without a second. Sages called this Realization the Sahaj state.

Sahaj in Sanskrit means easy and natural. That which requires no effort is Sahaj. To understand the Sahaj state of the Self, we can start and reflect on our body and see what is natural to it. What is easy and natural differs among people. Some people are able to sit in the lotus posture in an easy and natural way (see the picture of this young woman at www.harshasatsangh.com sitting in the lotus posture).

However, the lotus posture is not easy and natural for everyone. For most people, to sit like that would hurt their knees and ankles and is very uncomfortable. God did not say to Moses, “Here I Am, sitting in the Lotus Posture.” God only said, “I AM THAT I AM”. The feeling of “I AM” within us is independent of posture. Physical postures pertain only to the body and not to the spirit.

What is Natural Differs Among People

In life and on the spiritual path we have to see what is easy and natural for us. For some, walking is easy and natural and such people practice their prayers, mantras, and pranayama taking a morning stroll. Others are not satisfied unless they lift very heavy weights and scream “Oh God”, “Oh God”, and breathe rapidly and heavily. This is their form of being natural. For such people becoming very muscular becomes natural. If you were to tell weight lifters to take it easy and just take a nice walk every morning, they would not agree to it. They like to have big muscles and low body fat. That is natural for them but not for everyone.

In Bhagavad Gita, Sri Krishna tells Arjuna that actions and paths of people differ according to their natural inclinations and therefore one should follow one’s own Dharma not someone else’s. In other words, we need not seek or follow someone’s path because it may not be natural for us. We should be natural, authentic, and true to our self. Without it, there would be inner conflict which is not conducive to being quiet and meditative.

 What Path Should One Follow?
Gradual or Direct or Just Stay Home

In this essay, I have suggested that the philosophies and perspectives of the gradual or the direct path are not inherently meaningful. Their truth lies only in being teaching tools. Words and concepts such as the “direct path” and the “gradual path” are meant to point at the truth but they are not themselves the truth. The Truth must reveal itself to us in our own Heart.

Therefore, one should not be rigid about which notion is correct or more important or higher than the other. Asking whether the direct path is better than the gradual, one misses the point. The real question is, “What feels natural to you and makes sense?”

Being rigid in one’s view, one misses the obvious. Both the notion of “direct” and “gradual” depend on each other for meaning and have no basis in the Reality of the Self.

According to Advaita Vedanta, the Self Always Is. It cannot be seen by “another” directly. Neither is it approached by “another” gradually. Self Reveals It Self Alone to ItSelf. To understand it in plain English, you can say to yourself, “I am always going to Me. And Here I Am.” Just stay with that.

You Are the Self.

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Sri Ramana and My Teacher Gurudev Sri Chitrabhanu-Ji: By Dr. Harsh K. Luthar

All of us come from different backgrounds, and we walk the path in our own unique way. Yet, we all have the same innermost longing to know the deepest mystery of our own nature and being. Reflecting on the purest teachings of the Self and on the nature of Ahimsa as nonmovement of the mind, we are bound to have experiences and openings in our consciousness.

When my teacher, Gurudev Sri Chitrabhanu-ji visited Sri Ramana, he was just a teenager. Chitrabhanu-Ji became a Jain monk in 1942 at the age of 20. Prior to that, he was searching and visiting different saints in the various traditions of India and asking them questions about the spiritual path and how to become Self-Realized.

Gurudev Sri Chitrabhanu

Chitrabhanu-Ji told me that of all the saints and sages he visited in India in his teen years, a few were unforgettable and stood out to him. Sri Ramana was one of them.

When I was 22 and studying with Chitrabhanu-Ji, he saw me carrying books of different spiritual teachers for my reading pleasure. He asked to see these books and thumbed through them. He knew most of the authors personally. Swami Rama of Himalayan Institute had come to our meditation center. One time I saw Swami Chidananda, the disciple of Swami Sivananda of Rishikesh, when he came to visit my teacher. Swami Chidananda was very thin even then and was leading a very pure and ascetic life.

After looking through my books, Chitrabhanu-Ji told me that I should read the dialogues with Ramana Maharshi and study his teaching. That is how I was led to Sri Ramana. Of course, after I read the classic, “Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi”, it was indeed like magic and I knew deep in my heart that this was my way.

The Author at 21-22 studying With Sri Chitrabhanu-Ji

Going back to Chitrabhanu-Ji, he wanted to know the meaning of life at a very young age. He had lost his mother, his sister, and then his girl friend and so the world did not seem so attractive to him even at a young age. He wanted to know the mystery of life and death and what is beyond. In that quest, he started visiting many saints and sadhus and also visited Sri Ramana.

Continue reading

Bill Gates On The Way We Give: By Dr. Harsh K. Luthar

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This essay, adapted from a speech of Bill Gates, is one of the most beautiful, eloquent, and inspirational pieces I have read.

I was reminded of the the passage quoted by Sri subrahmanian of the Advaitin list to me recently which states:

“As life is dear to oneself, it is also just so to other beings. Men show compassion to other beings by putting themselves in their place”. [MBh 13.116.21cd–22ab; YDhS p. 31]

Surely people like Bill Gates are touched by some divine energy that not only opens their hearts but through them delivers the healing balms to soothe the suffering of millions of others.

We bow to such people.

May all beings be free from sorrow.

Bill Gates: Technology and Philanthropy – Jan. 9, 2007

The Story of JaDa-Bharata By Professor V. Krishnamurthy

Professor V. Krishnamurthy is well known to the Advaitin Hindu community and deeply revered as both a practitioner and a scholar of the Upanishads, Bhagavad Gita, Shrimad Bhagavatam, and other ancient scriptures and texts. He has touched our lives through his healing words, wisdom, and authenticity.

Before his retirement, Professor Krishnamurthy was a professor of mathematics with a distinguished record of service and leadership in the academe. Along with that, he also demonstrated brilliant scholarship of Hinduism. His insight into the ancient texts should come as no surprise. He was trained from childhood by his father Sri R.Viswanatha Sastrigal who was a living example of the ideal Hindu way of life.

A more comprehensive description of Professor Krishnamurthy’s contributions to his profession of mathematics and to Hinduism can be found at the end of the article.

The Story of JaDa-Bharata the Jivan-mukta

By Professor. V. Krishnamurthy

The JaDa-bharata story in Shrimad Bhagavatam is the story of a superlative Brahma-jnAni. There are very few Brahma-jnAnis known to us either through the Puranas or through history. The example of Ramana Maharishi, of the 20th century, known to us in modern times, cannot be missed.

Going back in history, there is Sadashiva Brahmendra (of whom there is very little recorded history), Adi Shankara himself (of whom we know fairly well through his works), and Shuka Brahmam (whose Bhagavatam is very revealing).

The story of JaDa-Bharata is, however, unique among all of them. Lord Krishna describes a Brahma jnAni once each in the 2nd, 12th and 14th chapters of his Gita and also off and on in the fifth chapter.

The Lineage of Bharata

The history of Priyavrata, the first son of Manu Svayambhuva, occurs in the fifth skanda of Shrimad Bhagavatam. Priyavrata’s son was Agnidhra and his son was Nabhi. Nabhi was a great and devout ruler and to him was born another avatar of Mahavishnu, by name Rishabha.

Rishabha, also called Rishabhadeva, had one hundred sons of whom the eldest was Bharata whose story is the content of this article. Incidentally it is this Bharata after whom the country (India) was called BhArata-varsha; before that it was called aja-nAbha varsha.

King Rishaba Retires

King Rishabha on retirement from the duties of the state called his sons before him and gave them all a long sermon on the need to lead a spiritual life. This sermon constitutes the first 27 shlokas of the fifth chapter of the fifth skanda. It is sometimes called Rishabha-Gita. For a sample we take the first shloka here.

“This body is not meant to be used for sensuous enjoyments as done by lowly animals. There are two doors out of this life. One is the door for moksha and the other is the door for the darkness of hell”. (V – 5 – 2 –first half). “The door to moksha is by service to great people.”

Here the words used are *yoshhitAM sangi-sangaM*. To go upward on the spiritual path one needs a direct contact with great people. But to cause a slide downward even a secondary contact with the vile ones will do. The lesson is that one should select one’s friends very carefully.

“By the union of man and woman attachment arises to home, family, sons, wealth and property. Those who want to reach God must see to it that they should advise their children as a father, train their people as a boss or a leader, and teach their disciples as a Guru. A father who does not do so is not a father; a king who does not do so is not a king; a guru who does not do so is not a guru”.

After elaborating such teaching in very forceful words King Rishabhadeva relinquished his kingdom, left his palace and roamed about as one intoxicated with God and the godly, completely nude, with disheveled hair and uncouth appearance. Actually he moved about as if he were senseless, blind, dumb and deaf, a ghost or a drunkard; even though others spoke to him he did not speak, because he was observing total silence:

*jaDAndha-mUka-badhira-pishAchonmAdakavat avadhUta-veshaH abhibhAshhyamANo’pi janAnAM gRRihIta-mauna-vrataH tUshhNIM babhUva* (V – 5 – 29).

This avatara of the Lord is to teach us worldly minded people to change our ways and reach Moksha.

*ayam avatAro rajas-opapluta-kaivalyopa-sikshhaNArthaH*

[Note to Scholars: Incidentally the author Shuka adopts a prose style of narration for most of this fifth skanda. In the other skandas it was all verse; probably he wanted to stick to the way the narration was given by Maitreya to Vidhura in the earlier portions. But now in the fifth skanda he is himself telling the story and this time it is about two great Brahma-jnAnis – Rishabha and Bharata – and as a Brahma-jnAni himself Shuka probably did not want to be bound by meter, prosody etc. which usually are obligatory restrictions in the verse form of narration.]

Bharata As King

Bharata accepted his responsibility as the next king after his father Rishba renounced the world.

Bharata ruled the country for a long time in the most notable manner, without ever swerving from the dharmic path, the path of the holy ones. As a noble king of India, he set a wonderful example for his subjects. Not surprisingly, his people were also following dharma in a remarkable manner.

The yajnas and pUjAs that he performed incessantly purified his mind to such an extent that the Lord was residing in Bharata’s heart almost visibly. Eventually Bharata wished to spend all his time in meditation and solitude. Like his great father Rishaba before him, Bharata ultimately decided to take Sannyasa and retired from the world.

Bharata Leaves the Kingdom

After making his family and subjects aware of his decision, Bharata distributed his kingdom to his sons and and went over to distant pulahAshrama for a period of penance and whole-time spiritual pursuit.

Entirely devoid of any mundane desires or attachments, he was worshipping the Lord with all the flowers, leaves and fruits that he could get in the forest there. His bhakti towards the Lord increased day by day and he was living all the time in a state of total bliss in the company of the Lord in his heart.

The constant contemplation of the lotus feet of the Lord generated a superlative joy of devotional experience. In that joy he forgot himself as well as the very worship he was doing. He just lost himself in divine contemplation in a kind of spiritual trance.

Forming of a New Attachment

One day, after his daily routine bath, Bharata was sitting on the bank of the river for four and a half hours doing the japa of AUM. A solitary doe approached the river for drinking water. Suddenly there was a terrifying roar of a lion. By nature the doe trembled with fear on hearing the roar; frightened and shaken by that roar, the doe jumped across the river. In that frightful jump she gave birth to a young one which fell into the river. The mother doe, due to shock, process of delivery, and the act of springing, fell dead on the other side of the river.

Bharata saw all this and was overpowered with compassion at the poor little deer that had now lost its mother and was about to be itself lost in the current of the river. Instinctively he caught hold of the little one, brought it to his own ashram and started taking care of it. From that day onwards he started feeding it, searched for the proper grass for its food, protected it from wild animals and was doing everything for its care, nourishment and growth.

Gradually Bharata’s time was more and more occupied with caring and tending to the needs of the infant deer. The time that he usually allotted for his spiritual disciplines got reduced steadily to almost nothing.

Compassion and affection are not wrong; in fact they are very noble qualities. But when they become an attachment, the spiritual fall is imminent. Affection ennobles, but attachment enslaves. Love elevates, but desire entraps. This is what happened in the case of this great King Bharata.

Infatuation Clouds Bharata’s Mind

With the attachment to the deer growing in intensity day by day, Bharata started thinking all the time of this deer that was now dearest to him. *Asana-shayana-aTana-sthAna-ashanAdishhu* — whether he was sitting or sleeping, walking or standing, or was eating, he was not wanting to be separated from the young deer. If the deer even for a little time was away from him he worried about its safety and began to wail over the matter. Even when he was trying to do his daily japa the deer would come near him and cuddle around him and he would take pity on it and put it on his lap and appreciate how this pet of his behaves like an own son!

Let us recall that this great king Bharata had renounced his vast kingdom and all the riches which he acquired as well as his family and people, for the sake of pursuing a life of total renunciation and tapas.

How could such a renouncer fall into the trap of worldly affection for a deer-cub and forget even his daily spiritual routine like this? What else could it be but his prArabdha (fate) in the form of this deer? Time passed like this and all his Atma-vichAra had come to a dead stop.

Death Of Bharata

Death comes to everyone and Bharata was no exception. The hour of Death does not wait.

Bharata knew the end was coming. He worried about what would happen to this poor deer-cub when he was gone! He was thinking about it, when he breathed his last. According to Hindu scriptures, a person’s last thoughts and state of mind determine the next birth.

Rebirth of Bharata

Subsequently, in his next life, Bharata was born as a deer!

(Recall Gita: *yaM yaM vApi smaran bhAvam *.. . (VIII – 6).

But because of the intense pUjA and tapas Bharata had been doing in all his previous life, even in the body of the deer, his mind, by the Grace of God, remembered his life as King Bharata and the calamity that had befallen him at the end of that life.

A Meditative Deer

So now Bharata, even as a deer, decided that he would not develop any more attachment or VAsanA. The deer Bharata deserted his surrounding deer-family and somehow went over to the same Pulahashrama where he was doing his tapas in the previous life.

The deer Bharata did not eat tasty green grass or any of the other things that deer are fond of, lest any attachment to food may develop. He only subsisted on a minimum dried grass and lived aloof from any of his own species. He lived in the company of Sadhus who were doing tapas in the Ashrama and was waiting for this life to pass and his prArabdha (destiny) to spend itself. He had decided not to acquire any more vAsanA even if he got a human life.

The end came. When it came, the deer Bharata went to the river and stood up in neck-deep water and for the first time as a deer, raised his voice and ‘spoke’ God’s name, dipped in the water and died!

The Last Birth of Bharata

Bharata’s next birth was in a noble Brahmin family. This was his last birth. His father was a great, scholarly Brahmin with purest intentions who led a religious life, with his nine sons from his first wife and a twin-child from his second wife. Of the twins one was male and the other was female.

The male of the twin was JaDa-bharata, our hero. The name that applied to him in this birth is not mentioned by Shuka. So, to continue our story we shall still call him Bharata. But expositors refer to him as JaDa-bharata. ‘JaDa’ means inert; from his very birth Bharata remained totally silent and was behaving like an idiot, not responding to any provocation. By the Grace of God he had all the memory of his two previous lives, one as King Bharata and the next as the lone deer of Pulahashrama; naturally, he was scared of accumulation of any more vAsanA. So he showed himself as mad, inert, blind, deaf and dumb.

The father, wanting to discharge his responsibilities, and hoping that this jaDa nature of the boy might be cured by a proper samskAra, performed the Upanayanam (thread ceremony) for the boy and prodded him on to do the daily Sandhya worship. But the boy would do no such thing! He was already a Brahma-jnAni and was in that state all the time, though the outside world, including his own family, could not recognize him as such. All their teaching of the Vedas or the Gayatri was a failure as far as they were concerned! The father died in due time and the second wife, the mother of JaDabharata also followed him immediately.

JaDa-Bharata’s Indifference

The nine brothers of JaDa-bharata who were knowledgeable only about the karma-kANDa of the Vedas and had no idea of the Brahmavit among them treated him as a good-for-nothing fool. Consequently they simply extracted work from him and fed him only some rotten food, that deserved to be thrown in the garbage.

JaDa-Bharata came to be known in the entire neighborhood as a robust young man but a confirmed idiot. Whatever menial work anybody gave him he did it, but not intelligently. They put him as a sentry in the fields to ward off birds and he sat there unendingly. Some one gives him instructions to dig and he digs ; someone else comes along and asks him to stop and he stops. Some one gives him a beating for not doing his work properly and he receives it without murmur or protest. Whatever he gets he accepted it, without ever caring whether it is more or less, good or bad. Whatever they gave him, be it rice flour, oil-cake, chaff, spoilt pulses, or charred food – he ate up everything as if it were nectar.

*YadA tu parata AhAraM karma-vetana IhamAnaH sva-bhrAtRRibhirapi kedAra-karmaNi nirUpitaH tadapi karoti kintu na samaM vishhamaM nyUnaM adhikaM iti veda kaNa-piNyAka-palI-karaNa-kulmAsha-sthAlIpurIshhAdIny-api amRRitavad-abhyavaharati //* V- 9 – 11.

It went on like this day by day, year by year. He had decided not to care for this body and so his body was usually filthy, his dhoti dirty, and his face, with a long beard, looked like that of a caveman. He was living as a Brahmavit totally aloof from his body.

The Goddess Saves JaDa-Bharata

It turned out that some rich man wanted to give a nara-bali (sacrifice of a human) to Goddess Kali and had arranged for a captive intended for the nara-bali. But just on the previous night the captive escaped and they needed immediately a substitute for the next morning’s ritual. The rich man sent his assistants to look for a substitute.

They roamed about and found our JaDa-bharata sitting alone in the fields. His robust appearance and youth tempted them to choose him as their victim for the nara-bali and they simply led him on to their boss.

Never had a victim for nara-bali come along with them for his own human sacrifice, as this man did, without the least protest! It appeared to them he was almost willing to die for them.

The next day the ritual started in the presence of the Kali deity. JaDa-bharata was bathed in oil, washed clean, dressed gorgeously, decorated with sandal paste and other cosmetics. Finally the leader of the group got ready to cut off JaDa-Bharata’s head as a sacrifice.

At that time Mother Goddess Kali Herself appeared from the deity and chopped off the heads of the entire gang and saved JaDa-Bharata. We don’t know where JaDa-Bharata went from there.

Upholding Ahimsa (Non-violence) and Jolting the King

The story is picked up by Shuka in another scene. There was one King of Sauvira country, by name Rahugana. He had great intentions to have spirituality lessons from Kapila Muni and so he traveled, carried in a palanquin, to the northwest corner of this country in the hope of meeting Kapila. On the way, one of his eight palanquin-bearers became unable to do his duty and so they needed a substitute. They looked for one and they found our JaDa-Bharata roaming about as if for no purpose. Again his robustness and youth attracted them and he was used as the substitute palanquin bearer.

The strength of the vAsanAs that one inherits from the actions of the past is very great. Noble Sadhus, particularly in the Sannyasa-Ashrama, are so careful even while they walk to see they don’t trample on a living creature. It is an extreme discipline of this kind which is one of the reasons they have cAturmasya-vrata (the vrata during the rainy season of four months), the observance of which requires them, among other things, to stay in the same place and carry on their daily worship or meditation routine.

Our JaDabharata must have gone through such disciplines in his previous lives. That VasanA of ahimsA (non-violence) was so strong in him that as he was walking along carrying the palanquin of King Rahugana in the woods, now and then he jumped forward, still carrying the portion of the palanquin resting on his right shoulder. The jumping was to avoid trampling on some small crawling creature on the ground below. But this jumping of one of the bearers, without the concordant activity or consent of the other bearers, naturally created a sudden jolt and jerk to the occupant of the palanquin. The King opened his window, looked out, and faulted the bearers for jolting him like that. All seven of them said it was not their fault; it was the newcomer who joined them just a little while earlier who was jumping out of step unnecessarily!

JaDa-Bharata Speaks

And that was the starting point of a remarkable dialogue between the King Rahuguna and our hero JaDa-Bharata. The King chastises him in a satirical way, referring to his robust health, fat body and youth. When a second time this chastisement happens, JaDabharata, for the first time in his life, opens his mouth. This portion in the Bhagavatam, going through four chapters, is one of the most treasured pieces in the whole work.

My dear King, says JaDa-bharata, whatever you have spoken sarcastically is certainly true. Actually these are not simply words of chastisement, for the body is the carrier. The load carried by the body does not belong to me. There is no contradiction in your statements because I am different from the body. I am not the carrier of the palanquin; the body is the carrier. Certainly, as you have hinted, I have not labored carrying the palanquin, for I am detached from the body. Your words about my stoutness or otherwise are befitting a person who does not know the distinction between the body and the soul. The body may be fat or thin, but no learned man would say such things of the Atman. As far as the Atman is concerned, I am neither fat nor skinny; therefore you are correct when you say that I am not very stout. Also, if the object of this journey and the path leading there were mine, there would be many troubles for me, but because they relate not to me but to my body, there is no trouble at all.

Fatness, thinness, bodily and mental distress, thirst, hunger, fear, disagreement, desires for material happiness, old age, sleep, attachment for material possessions, anger, lamentation, illusion and identification of the body with the self are all transformations of the material covering of the Atman. Only a person who has identified himself with his body is affected by these things. Consequently I am neither fat nor skinny nor anything else you have mentioned.

My dear King, you have unnecessarily accused me of being dead though alive. In this regard, I can only say that this is the case everywhere because everything material has its beginning and end. As far as your thinking that you are the king and master and are thus trying to order me, this is also incorrect because these positions are temporary. Today you are a king and I am your servant, but tomorrow the position may be changed, and you may be my servant and I your master. These are temporary circumstances. The differentiation is temporary, and it expands only from usage or convention. I do not see any other cause. In that case, who is the master, and who is the servant? Nonetheless, if you think that you are the master and that I am the servant, I shall accept this. Please order me. What can I do for you? You said you are going to punish me severely. What will you gain by punishing me? You will be only punishing my body; but I have actually punished this body by never tending to it. You are only powdering the already powdered chaff. There will be no effect.

King Recognizes JaDa-Bharata As A Self-Realized Soul

The King was stunned and amazed when he heard this. He jumped from the palanquin, fell at the feet of JaDabharata and asked for being taught spiritual wisdom. There ensues then a three-chapter dialogue between the King and JaDabharata containing the essence of advaita. The King asks questions and the Brahma-jnAni JaDabharata answers them meticulously.

Material pains and pleasures are only external. People interested in them are far from spiritual advancement. It is the mind, contaminated by the three modes of Nature, that makes the living entity wander through different species of life. If the mind can become unattached to material enjoyment, it becomes the cause of liberation.

All things on earth, moving or unmoving are nothing but different combinations of substances coming from the earth. We are all but dust and dust shall we end in. This universe itself has no ultimate existence.

Non-duality is the ultimate truth. This material existence is a forest. The Jiva through various births wanders through this forest and suffers untold miseries but does not know how to get out of this. The only way to get out of this is through satsangh. And the Brahma-jnAni concludes his teaching with the following emphasis:

*rahUgaNa-etat tapasA na yAti na cejyayA nirvapaNAd-gRhAd-vA /

nac-chandasA naiva jalAgni-sUryaIH vinA mahat-pAda-rajobhishhekaM *// Bh. V – 12 – 12

Rahugana, Unless one bathes in the dust from the feet of the devotees, this Absolute Truth cannot be learnt. Not by penance, nor by yajna, nor by renouncing the household, nor by Vedas, nor by torturing oneself in water, fire or the Sun (can it be learnt).

Summary

To sum up we shall only recall the following four shlokas from the Gita which describe a Brahma-jnAni. There is perhaps nothing more telling than the story of JaDa-Bharata to illustrate these profound declarations of the Lord Himself:

V-17: Their intellect absorbed in That, their self being That, established in That, with That for their supreme goal, they go whence there is no return, their sins dispelled by knowledge.

V -18: The wise men look, by nature, equally upon a Brahmana, rich in learning and humility, on a cow, on an elephant, and on a mere dog and on a dog-cooker (an out-caste).

V -19: Here [i.e. even while living in the body.] itself is rebirth conquered by them whose minds are established on sameness. Since Brahman is the same (in all) and free from defects, therefore they are established in Brahman.

V- 20: Resting in Brahman, with steady intellect and unclouded, the knower of Brahman neither rejoices on obtaining what is pleasant nor grieves on obtaining what is unpleasant.

Om ShAntiH ShAntiH ShAntiH.

Prof. V. Krishnamurthy
profvk@yahoo.com

Also see, http://www.harshasatsangh.com/ProfVK/Raasa/LeelA.htm

Prof. V. Krishnamurthy M.A. of Madras University and Ph.D, of Annamalai University, is an ex-Director of K.K. Birla Academy, New Delhi. Formerly he was Dy. Director and Prof. of Mathematics at Birla Institute of Technology and Science, Pilani for two decades. While at Pilani he was one of the top-ranking academic administrators who were responsible for the multifarious academic reforms for which BITS is now well known. His wide and varied interests in teaching and research include assignments at the University of Illinois, Urbana, Ill., U.S.A. and University of Delaware, Newark, DE., U.S.A. His mathematical research contributions are in the areas of Functional Analysis, Topology, Combinatorics and Mathematics Education.

Professor Krishnamurthy has been the President of the Indian Mathematical Society, President of the Mathematics Section of the Indian Science Congress Association, Executive Chairman of Association of Mathematics Teachers of India, and National Lecturer and National Fellow of the University Grants Commission. He has been Leader of the Indian team for the International Mathematical Olympiad, held at Bombay in 1996. His books in Mathematics include: Combinatorics: Theory and Applications; Introduction to Linear Algebra (jointly with two others); The Culture, Excitement and Relevance of Mathematics; Challenge & Thrill of Pre-College Mathematics (jointly with three others)and, The Clock of the Night Sky. and What is Mathematics? – An explanation through two Puzzles (In Tamil).


Professor Krishnamurthy was also trained systematically in the traditional Hindu scriptures by his father Sri R.Viswanatha Sastrigal, a scholarly exponent who was himself a living example of the ideal Hindu way of life. Prof. Krishnamurthy has given several successful lectures on Hinduism, the Ramayana, the Gita, the Upanishads, and Srimad Bhagavatam to Indian and American audiences. His expositions are known for their precision, clarity and an irresistible appeal to the modern mind. His books on religion include: Essentials of Hinduism; Hinduism for the next Generation; and, The Ten Commandments of Hinduism. He has also authored a series of 18 poster-size charts on Hinduism, entitled SADHARMA (= Sanatana Dharma Ratna Mala). These are unusual expositions with visual support, on the concepts ideals and traditions of the Hindu way of life, presented by an incisive scientific mind in a totally novel manner never before tried by any exponent of religion formally or informally.

A number of writings of his on Religion and Philosophy are on the web at http://www.geocities.com/profvk/ entitled: Science and Spirituality and Gems from the Ocean of Hindu Thought, Vision and Practice.

His recent books on religion are Kannan sorpadi vaazhvdeppadi (in Tamil) with an appendix on Dhruva-Stuti – An Upanishad Capsule (Published by Alliance Co., Mylapore, Chennai) and Science and Spirituality – A Vedanta Perception (Published by Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan).

Live Happily the Gita Way – An Advaitic approach” is under publication. He was given the Distinguished Service Award by the Mathematics Association of India in 1995, the Seva Ratna award by the Centenarian Trust, Chennai, in 1996, and the Vocational Service Award for Exemplary Contributions Education by the Rotary Clubs of Guindy and Chennai Samudra in September 2001.