Sankara’s Smithy – An Introduction

Link to the Tamil Podcast


The opening lines of a song from a popular Tamil movie released 63 years ago starts with a physically challenged hero, in contemplative mood asking question to his child

Why were you born son? Why were you born? Why did you come here and be born, son? Why were you born, before I knew the reason for my birth, dear son!

It is no exaggeration to say that even after many years, these questions haunt each of us when trials and tribulations surround us and whenever we turn into a contemplative mood . Now let's analyze the philosophy behind this lyrics.

The Goal

Countless spiritualists, saints, sages, individuals, writers on ethical philosophy, poets, lyricists, and many others are still trying to answer this question. However, one truth they all agree on, even though they explored it on different paths, with different perspectives.

“All with six senses aim for unceasing permanent happiness without pains and suffering; they keep this aim as the target and carry on with their work day in and day out”.

Swami Omkarananda
There are no two opinions about this aim. 

"alpa aayasham ananta Sugam" - Adi Sankara says in his Vishnu Sahasranama text (in Bhashyam).

Well, in the life of all of us who are trying to achieve that ananta sugam (bliss): there are three words that are very important; Man, Universe (or more broadly called Creation) & God.

All three of these words contain great philosophies. If we deeply examine these three words, many questions such as these given below, will arise in us.

Who am I? Why do I do what I do? How can I do what I do better?

What does birth and death really mean?

Who is God? What is His nature?

What is this world? What do I have to do with this world?

What is the relationship between me and God and this world?
One can ask “What is the benefit of finding answers to these questions?”. Such a question may arise for all of us. This is answered by the Tamil Saint “Thayumanavar”.

"If you know yourself, you will be attached to the Lord, the leader. After that, is there anything else to get attached”?

The path to the Goal

So, the purpose of human birth is to know oneself. If we want to know ourselves, we need to know what the meaning of our life is. “Purushartham “ is the word for this in Sanskrit. Here are two perspectives for this word.
1. “Purusha” means “Human”. "Artham" means "ideal" or "goal". The goal of unceasing peaceful bliss, and the efforts (prayatanam) we have to make to achieve this goal are called Purushartham. 

There are many different species in this world. In this, only man is given the opportunity (wisdom) to choose. Other species do not have the opportunity to choose. The ideal or goal comes in when there is an opportunity to choose.

Thus, Purushartham can be divided into two types of power i.e Shakti (Icha Shakti, Kriya Shakti) which are the desire for the goal and the actions to achieve it.

Icha (pleasure) is of two kinds. One is cultivated by our senses - sense pleasure; that which are outward looking and initiated through the body mind intellect complex of us. This is peripheral and unstable. The other is cultivated by knowledge. An inward looking set of actions - Dharma, Bhakti, Gnana and Moksha are the highest goals. Actions that help you to undetermine who you are.
2. The great Mahaan Bhaskara Raya, from Bhaga in Maharashtra, explains that Purushartham means Dharma, Artha, Kama and Moksha. These four Purusharthas are also considered as the vital modes of human life. 

The focus of this perspective is to stay on the path of virtue always , seek material things (through ethical means) required for supporting one’s family and the society, gradually start giving up and then reach the abode of the Lord.

Here are all four in Bharatiyar’s simple words:

Self-restraint is Dharma
Remove distress in others is Artha
Seeking the welfare of others is Kama
Praise the one who saves the world is Moksha

So far so good….Well, we know the reality of purpose, object and means. But what happens in our daily lives? What is the reality?

Goal v.s. Reality

Day in and day out we see human beings doing actions through their body, mouth and mind ; earn money,fame and do actions that give them what they call it as happiness. As we start ageing we start wondering as to what is that we have been doing so far and where are we heading; as age catches up and the body starts withering, this thinking turns into worries and finally we perish after worrying about men, materials and matter which have only “shelf life” and nothing else. Did we at any point of time have the time to ponder and compare our journey with our ultimate goal of pure and permanent happiness? Why is that our journey and our goal were not in sync?
For this question, here it is! Answers – in the form of questions:

1. We wander about ignorantly trying to experience the world without experiencing the experiencer. Isn't it! (Wow! It is like trying desperately to call our mobile number from our own cell phone. How foolish are we! How can we get an answer? That's the question).

2. We learn with the help of instruments of knowledge; have we ever inquired what instruments of knowledge are required to know about ourselves?

3. Why are we, not knowing that we are the embodiment of absolute happiness,running behind sufferings, thinking that there is happiness in sufferings?

The Course Correction

“What is this? When we want answers and ask questions, we are given questions to answer. This is a problem” - we all must be wondering.

Don’t worry. Let us visit a Forge Shop, a traditional Smithy owned by Adi Sankara. Answers are there for all our questions in the form of 31 hammer blows. There is a guarantee that comes along with these hammer blows.

If we absorb these blows internally and contemplate, our transformation and subsequent happiness is ensured; just like the hot solid iron is worked into a wonderful product.

Avoid fear and come to Adi Sankara's workshop with that assurance.

What next?

Welcome! At least once a month, we will visit Sankara's workshop and get the hammer blows.

The first visit will be on November 11th. Looking forward to seeing you there.

Until then, take care. Start looking inwards. God Bless.
Important Note: 

This post and all subsequent posts on this subject are inspired by Guru, Pujyasree Swami Omkarananda. Guruji's lectures in public domain and what I learnt from Swamiji’ Atma Vidya Course lectures are the principal source of reference.

All errors if any on these posts are entirely due to my ignorance and incapability to understand.

I seek your feedback which will be of immense help to me in my learning process.

Author: prabhusponder

A novice venturing out to explore the meaning of life

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