WHO AM I – The baby steps

As a kid nearly 60 years back, Visalakshi Ammman Kovil (Temple is more than 300 years old ) in Batlagundu (Vattlagundu), situated in Nilkottai Taluk of in Dindigul District in Tamilnadu, on the bank of HARIDHRA RIVER (MANJALARU – no idea if the river exists today!) was the only place which I used to go regularly for prayers, not because I understood what a prayer is and the need for one; but that used to be the mandate those days for boys at the “Agraharam (an ungated community!)” from the family. Visalakshi Amman & Lord Visvesvarar are the principal deities and the temple included several Deities such as Ganesha, Subramanya, Chandikeshwarar, Dakṣiṇāmurty etc. For each of the Gods, we used to recite a specific Sloka and when it came to Dakṣiṇāmurty, we used to recite as a routine. Here is a short video of the temple (Photo Courtesy – My friend Muthunarayanan alias Muthappa)

Guru Brahma, Guru Vishnu, Guru Devo Maheswara

Guru sakshath ParaBrahma tasmai Sri Guruve Namah.

I did not know anything about either God or the Sloka except that I had to recite it at that particular spot where Lord Dakṣiṇāmurty was situated. All I knew was that He was a form of Siva. Never in my life subsequent to that period and even in my dreams did I imagine once, that one day I will be writing about the Sthothram on Lord Dakṣiṇāmurty by Adi Śankarācārya. Blessed I am indeed to even think of consolidating what is written and explained by legends and doyens of Spirituality and Vedāntaḥ.

But strange is the nature and power of “the Ultimate Reality”. Study of Vedāntaḥ and listening to Spirituality oriented Discourses is the most familiar route for spending time after retirement for most of us and I am no exception to this. One such lecture by Prof. Mahadevan of IIM, Bangalore was the spark I needed to dive into the Ocean of Vedāntaḥ Concepts brought out in Dakṣiṇāmurty Stotram.  Realizing that I am getting old and spending time on spirituality, my son presented me with a book titled “The Upanishads” by Sri. Eknath Easwaran. This added fuel to the fire. As I was exploring these two topics, I learnt that I can’t do either if I don’t know Tattva Bodha. Now this is the third dimension to my time management. My preoccupation with these three books and commentaries by Swami Paramarthananda, Swami Omkaranada and Swami Sravapriyananda drove my grandchildren (my daughter’s young boys) to the conclusion that their “Thatha” (grandfather) who used to spend lot of time playing cricket and organizing/fixing the place rendered as a “mess” by them is not doing it anymore and is lost. They even declared my room as “Thatha’s Corner “– The lost and found room. The fact is that as a “Thatha” I am lost; but I am trying to find out as to who I am instead of where I am. 

How can I find out the answer to the question “Who am I”? The legendary Tamil Saint Thirumoolar comes to my rescue in his epic Thirumandiram

“நரருஞ் சுரரும் பசுபாசம் நண்ணிக்

கருமங்க ளாலே கழித்தலிற் கண்டு

குருஎன் பவன்ஞானி கோதில னானால்

பரமென்ற லன்றிப் பகர்வொன்று மின்றே”.

மனிதர்களும்,தேவர்களும் பாசத்தில் அகப்பட்டு பல்வேறு வினைகளைச் செய்து அதனால் அழிந்து போகின்றனர். இதைக் கண்ட பின்பு ஒருவன் செய்ய வேண்டியது என்ன? ஒரு குற்றமற்ற ஞானியைத் தன் குருவாகப் பற்றிக் கொண்டாலே போதும். “பரத்துடன் கூடி நீயும் பரம் ஆவாய்” என்று உபதேசம் செய்வதன்றி அந்த குரு செய்ய வேண்டியது எதுவும் இல்லை.

As mortals like me, get trapped by “attachment” and perform actions which lead us nowhere, one has to look for a Guru who will make him understand that “You are That”. Fine; I need a Guru. How do I look for Guru at this Old age? Thirumoolar gives a response to my query.

“ஆட்கொண்ட வர்தனி நாயகன் அன்புற

மேற்கொண்ட வர்வினை போயற நாடொறும்

நிற்கின்ற செஞ்சடை நீளன் உருவத்தின்

மேற்கொண்ட வாறலை வீவித் துளானே”.

ஒரு குருவாக வந்து மாணவனை ஆட்கொள்பவர் ஒப்பற்ற ஈசனே ஆவார். அவர் தன் மாணவனின் வினைகள் அழியும் வண்ணம் நாள்தோறும் உபதேசிக்கிறார். அவர் நீர்மலிந்த நீள் சடையை உடைய சிவனே அன்றி வேறு எவரும் அல்ல. சிவனே மனம் இரங்கியும் கீழே இறங்கியும் வந்து மாணவனின் வருத்துகின்ற வல்வினைகளை அழித்து விடுகின்றார்.

Thirumoolar further states Lord Siva Himself comes in the form of a Guru to help us understand ourselves. It is with this confidence, that I am undertaking this journey, with Lord Dakṣiṇāmurty as my Guru and Adi Śankarācārya’ Stotramon on the Lord as the first leg of my journey.

To be honest, nothing that I will be writing in the months to come is mine, except the attempt to focus my understanding and in that process try to express the Sanskrit Slokas in my mother tongue – Tamil; it is only my limited understanding of the vast literature available in public domain. The purpose of documenting my understanding is with the hope that someday someone as ignorant as me (hopefully not when they become “the lost Thatha”), will take baby steps as a novice like me, into this delightful field of spirituality holding this piece of document as the helping hand. If that happens, that will be the biggest gift that I would be automatically passing on (without holding back) to all the people in the public domain whose works I have used extensively. There is no commercial interest whatsoever.

A word of caution here – Millions of pages have been written over centuries by “Subject” – “Matter” – Specialists to provide commentaries for the Slokas in these books. Summing them up into few lines is absolutely immature and childish; yet as a child I have started my baby steps on Vedāntaḥ. Pardon me for that. But Children have the right to enquire and ask questions. The child I am, I am asking questions to myself with the fond hope that someday I will find answers as to who I am.

Seeking your Blessings and wishes as I commence my journey. You are most welcome to join me in my journey. Looking forward to your wonderful and valued company. A broad based schedule for April & May will be posted in the next blog.

Author: prabhusponder

A novice venturing out to explore the meaning of life

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