The term Avatāra (अवतार) in Sanskrit means 1) Descent, alighting; descending or going down into; 2) Form, manifestation; 3) Descent of a deity upon earth, incarnation in general.
The Vedas, the Puranas, the Epics and the Bhagavadgita acknowledge the incarnations of Vishnu as an essential and important function of creation to ensure the order and regularity of the worlds and keep the chaos and demonic forces under control.
An incarnation of God is also different in many respects from a manifestation (vibhuti) or an aspect (amsa) of God. Practically, everything is a manifestation of God. A manifestation may or may not be aware of its divine nature. Its purpose may be limited in scope and influence, and it may represent only some qualities or aspects of God such as his knowledge, intelligence, power, wealth, beauty, aura, grace, etc. Secondly, a manifestation of God may happen with or without a form, not necessarily upon earth, whereas an incarnation always happens upon earth and in corporeal form only.
Technically, all living beings are incarnations of God only, since the soul or the Self is an aspect of Brahman and identical to him in all aspects. However, there is a fundamental difference. The incarnations of God are full-fledged. He manifests all his power and knows inherently his divine purpose upon earth. In contrast, the living beings are subject to the impurities of egoism, delusion and attachments.
With the above introduction, let us now study a wonderful Sloka which depicts the qualities of Lord Rama, the seventh Avatar of Lord Vishnu.
Pl. Listen to a wonderful recitation of the Sloka by the young Carnatic Musician Sri. Ashwath Narayanan in Ragamalika as a Virutham (approx 9 mts).
O Lord! Bestow on me just that much of health necessary to worship Thee. Then I shall practice the eight-limbed yoga (Ashtanga Yoga) and earn Thy grace.
Meaning of the Sanskrit Words
कल्यतां – health; मम – for me; कुरुष्व – kindly bestow; तावतीं – (at least) that much; कल्यते – (by which) I can perform; भवत्-उपासनं – worship of Thee; यया – by which; स्पष्टम्- definitely; अष्ट-विध-योग-चर्यया – by practicing the eight limbed yoga (Ashtanga Yoga); पुष्टय-आशु – (I will) be nourished soon; तव तुष्टिम् – (with) Thy grace; आप्नुयाम् – I will attain i
Bet Dwarka, also known as Shankhodhar, is said to have been the residence of Lord Krishna during his ruling years at Dwarka. It derived its name from the word ‘bet’ which translates to ‘gift’ and is believed that Lord Krishna received it from his friend Sudama. In the ancient epic, Mahabharata, Bet Dwarka is known by the name of ‘Antardvipa’ to which people of the Yadava clan needed to travel by boat.
In this modern era of technology and science, we were taken back to ancient times by the authorities responsible for the ferry.
This is nothing but a DISASTER WAITING TO HAPPEN ANYTIME. (Of course, it is based on the assumption that anything that cut shorts a human life is a disaster).
Here is a video of my ferry ride.
AMD – Ahmedabad Airport – Thriving on Chaos
The Domestic Terminal in Ahmedabad Airport, from where I commenced my return journey home, left me wondering with a few questions.
The Airport at the Capital of the State from where the Prime Minister of the fastest growing economy comes (Varanasi may be his adopted home) presented a feeling of a modern day chaotic mofussil bus stand.
Over crowded waiting area, jam packed lounges with huge queue to gain access to, noisy and vociferous crowd eager to form queues and rush even as the incoming aircraft is sighted, anxious and worried Senior Citizens on wheel chairs….. Ahmedabad Airport gives Chennai Airport a run for its money when it comes to chaos. No doubts about this.
This concludes the Tour Diary – Gujarat. Barring these two, the travel and tour was extremely comfortable and an amazing experience. Will see you soon from the other side of Atlantic .
We commence our study of Dasakam 4 of Narayaneeyam with a couplet from Adi Sankaracharya’ Viveka Chudamani.
न देशकालासनदिग्यमादि लक्ष्याद्यपेक्षाप्रतिबद्धवृत्तेः । संसिद्धतत्त्वस्य महात्मनोऽस्ति स्ववेदने का नियमाद्यवस्था ॥ ५२९ ॥
na deśakālāsanadigyamādi lakṣyādyapekṣāpratibaddhavṛtteḥ | saṃsiddhatattvasya mahātmano’sti svavedane kā niyamādyavasthā || 529 ||
529. The noble soul who has perfectly realised the Truth, and whose mind-functions meet with no obstruction, no more depends upon conditions of place, time, posture, direction, moral disciplines, objects of meditation and so forth. What regulative conditions can there be in knowing one’s own Self?
Adi Sankaracharya- Viveka Chudamani
Rediscovering one’s fullest potential on all levels of human consciousness—physical, physiological, psychological, and spiritual, by controlling the Body-Mind-Intellect Complex, therefore should become the uninterrupted philosophy of life for ordinary mortals like us.
The science of “controlling of the mind” [“citta vrtti nirodhah” otherwise called as Yoga] in all the levels human consciousness has eight (“ashta”) distinct processes (called as the limbs “anga”) as per Sage Patanjali. This science is what is called as Ashtanga Yoga.
The first four limbs—yama (self restraint) , niyama (things to do), asana (posture) , pranayama (breathing technique) —are considered external cleansing practices. The internal cleansing practices are —pratyahara (detachment), dharana (steadying the mind) , dhyana (contemplation).
Through the practice of correct breathing (Pranayama), postures (asanas), and gazing point (driste), we gain control of the senses and a deep awareness of our selves. By maintaining this discipline with regularity and devotion, one acquires steadiness of body and mind.
However, it is “not possible to practice the limbs and sub-limbs, when the body and sense organs are weak and haunted by obstacles”.
Bhattathri and Ashtanga Yoga
In Dasakam 4, Narayana Bhattathiri is therefore requesting Lord Guruvayoorappan to give him, good health adequate enough to practice Ashtanga yoga and earn his grace.
In that process, Bhattathri explains the devotional path to be practiced through ashtanga yoga for ordinary devotees like us to understand.
He also explains the benefits of practicing this Yoga by highlighting the gains that Sage Naradha and Sukhadeva enjoyed.
Bhattathri also outlines the two distinct routes (the immediate and gradual routes ) that devotees can follow for attaining liberation.
Bhattathiri concludes the Dasakam, with a request to Lord Guruvayoorappan, the embodiment of pure consciousness to cure him of his internal and external afflictions and protect him, who is always singing only Lord’s glories.
Like we did in Dasakam 3, starting from June 24, on every Ekadasi Day of the month, we will take up one sloka for study and present its chanting, transliterations, translations and meaning in English and Tamil.
This is the penultimate blog on our recent tour to Gujarat. I don’t intend to present the notes and photographs covering the traditional tourist spots like the Step Wells, the Sun Temple, Somnath, Dwaraka, Masjids etc etc.
I will rather present a few photographs that I took at three important places viz., Porbandar, Diu and Ekta Nagar.
These photographs bring out a clear message for me.
“ Freedom, Valor and Unity “.
No doubt in my mind that Gujarat stands tall when it comes to Nation building.
Porbandar & Sabarmati – Freedom through non-violence.
YO Lord! What is the use of my mere prattling? O Bestower of boons! I have resolved that till Thy Grace descends on me, giving up all my lamentations, I shall do prostration at Thy holy feet which are in front of me, sing Thy glories and do service to Thee as best as I can. Thus worship Thee !
I am starting a new series on “Lessons for Life” as per my limited understanding of our Scriptures. When we talk about lessons, we should be clear as to why are we looking for lessons. If we analyse this “why”, a little bit deeper in our own life, we end up with the basic issue which explains the title for the first topic – Objective Tensions and Subjective Confusions. We all are subjected to; no exceptions.
The choice of words directly takes us back in time and space to Kurukshetra, the battle field and the opening chapter of Bhagwad Gita.
Here is my limited understanding summarised and presented in Tamil and English. Please feel free to comment and offer your valuable inputs & suggestions for me to continue my learning.
காயமெனும் பாத்திரம், போடுவது நாடகம்,
ஆடி ஒய்வதில் இல்லை சந்தேகம் – எனினும்
மாறுவதையும் மடிவதனையும் மறுத்திட்டு,
பாசமுடன் பந்தமென்று சொந்தம் கொண்டு
மடமையுடன், மனதினிலே இன்பம் தேடி
கடமைதனை விலக்கிட்டு, காண்டீபம் நழுவிட
பரமனிடம் ஏவுகனை பெற்ற பார்த்தனவன்,
சரணமடைந்தான் தனது சந்தேகம் தீர்த்திடவே
சிரம் தாழ்த்தி வணங்கிட்டு போர்களத்தில்
பரம்பொருளாம் தேரோட்டி கண்ணணிடம் !
My limited understanding of the core issue
A mind with illusion leads to lack of clarity resulting in despondency. “When a man with a sense of duty is caught in illusion, even then he can’t bear to face the sense of reality which is the naked fact of his lapse from duty. He usually covers it up with an inquiry into principles”.
In this world of bitter competition, each one of us is compelled to battle constantly with things and beings. The external challenges persecute us. Deep within ourselves also, we have become helpless slaves to our uncontrollable desires and undisciplined thoughts. We modern humans have come to shreds and is torn between objective tensions and subjective confusions. The former is not in our control and we cant escape.
Lesson 1 – So, our success is measured by the extent we control our inner subjective confusions.
bhavatsnehii sO(a)haM subahu paritapye cha kimidam |
akiirtiste maa bhuudvarada gadabhaaraM prashamayan
bhavadbhaktOttamsaM jhaTiti kuru maaM kamsadamana ||
மருத்₃கே₃ஹாதீ₄ஶ த்வயி க₂லு பராஞ்சோ(அ)பி ஸுகி₂நோ
ப₄வத்ஸ்நேஹீ ஸோ(அ)ஹம் ஸுப₃ஹு பரிதப்யே ச கிமித₃ம் |
அகீர்திஸ்தே மா பூ₄த்₃வரத₃ க₃த₃பா₄ரம் ப்ரஶமயந்
ப₄வத் ப₄க்தோத்தம்ஸம் ஜ₂டிதி குரு மாம் கம்ஸத₃மந || 9||
Meaning in English
O Lord of Guruvaayur! I find that even those who are indifferent to Thee are leading a happy life. O Bestower of boons! Even though I am an ardent devotee of Thine, I am undergoing various sufferings. Why is this so? O Lord! Will this not bring disrepute to Thee? Hence, O slayer of Kamsa! Kindly eradicate my diseases and soon make me one of your foremost devotees
O Lord! In my mind, which is now very agitated due to mental and physical afflictions, may Thy beautiful form manifest, which is of the nature of Knowledge-Bliss absolute. This will excite me with supreme devotion causing horripilation all over the body and tears flowing in ecstasy and in such a thrill, my endless sorrows will melt into insignificance.
When we say “wild and wonderful” where does our mind jump to immediately?
“Hakuna Matata. kusafiri” is the answer.
Confused with the answer? In the East African language of Swahili, it simply means “no worries”, “take it easy”. The answer is “Safari”.
Safari -An introduction
In Swahili, the word safari means “journey”, originally from the Arabic noun سفر, safar, meaning “journey”, “travel”, “trip”, or “tour”; the verb for “to travel” in Swahili is kusafiri. These words are used for any type of journey.
Safari entered the English language at the end of the 1850s thanks to the British explorer Richard Francis Burton. In 1836, British Army Engineer,
William Cornwall Harris led an expedition purely to observe and record wildlife and landscapes. Harris established the safari style of journey, starting with a not too strenuous rising at first light, an energetic day walking, an afternoon rest then concluding with a formal dinner and telling stories in the evening over drinks and tobacco.
The hunting aspect traditionally associated with the safari is said to have its origins where villagers got together to hunt wild boars and reclaim land for farming. However it was the British who used Safaris for hunting for personal pleasure and popularized it.
Gujarat – The wild and wonderful
Our trip to Gujarat contained two segments where we stuck to the spirit of William Cornwall Harris style of Safari as a means to understand the wild and wonderful Gujarat.
Segment 1 – Gir – The kingdom of the “Wild and Wonderful”.
Part A – Jungle Safari
The Gir National Park was established in 1965 in the erstwhile Nawab of Junagarh’s private hunting area, with a total area of 1,412 km2(545 sq mi), of which 258 km2 (100 sq mi) is fully protected as a national park and 1,153 km2 (445 sq mi) as wildlife sanctuary.
Kicking off the day at 0530 Hrs we started our Safari in the jungles of Gir. A four hour drive in an open Gypsy (A jeep) took us the nook and corner of the sprawling Gir Forest. We were lucky to spot a lioness marking her territory right at the start of the Safari. The rest of the Safari covered other animals and birds. Here is an overview.
This was followed by an exquisite lunch and siesta at the FERN GIR FOREST RESORT.
Part 2 – Devalia Safari
Evening Safari was a bit different; we wanted to present ourselves as “strange moving creatures with two legs” to the wild and wonderful. So we locked ourselves in a cage mounted on a Gypsy and paraded ourselves to the wild animals in the Gir Forest. Needless to say that the Wild and Wonderful didn’t bother about us at all and were busy at their routines.
Gujarat Tourism calls this place as “ Devalia Safari Park ” also known as “Gir Interpretation Zone- Devalia”. Here is our Safari with a dufference:
Experience in this segment summed up – “High” on expectations (with increased Lions population and previous day sightings expectations built up) and “Moderate” on success in sighting.
Segment 2 – The Little Rann of Kutch – A saline sublime
In this segment, we moved away from the Jungle to the vast, dry and extremely hot saline desert.
Covering an area of 4954 Km2, Little Rann of Kutch is one of the most remarkable and unique landscapes of its kind. Wild Ass Sanctuary is located in this Rann which harbours the last population of Wild Ass (Equus hemionus khur).
It is a vast desiccated, unbroken bare surface of dark silt, encrusted with salts which transforms into a spectacular coastal wetland after the rains. The present saline desert of the Little Rann (saline desert-cum-seasonal wetland) of Kutch is believed to have been shallow sea.
We checked into the Royal Safari Camp at Bajana and relaxed after a sumptuous meal.
Part A – The Wild Ass Safari
We were ready for the Evening Safari. Temperature soared to 43 deg C (in the last week of March itself) and here we are driving in an open Gypsy towards the saline desert from the village center.
Part B – Nature’s Aviary at the Saline Desert
We even got down from the Gypsy and walked around the waterbodies to have an exclusive “darshan” of the birds around there. Wow. What a sight.
Experience in this segment summed up – “Low” on expectations (what do you expect, except a few Wild Asses and that too in a hot desert) and “High” on success in sighting (not only Wild Asses but also an impressive show by the Birds and Aditya, the Sun while setting).
Lessons learnt – Safari and Vedanta
This is our second Jungle Safari after the one at Kanha Tiger Reserve at Madhya Pradesh in 2018.
Safaris like these drive home several lessons, many of them straight from our Vedanta.
Here are some of my learnings:
1. If you are keeping your expectations (desires) high, you are bound to get disappointed (frustrated). After all you are looking for a few hundred wild animals (which are mostly territory oriented) in an area spanning thousands of square kilometers.
2. What you get to see (or otherwise) need not necessarily be seen (or otherwise) by someone who are either ahead of you or behind you. Your experience is unique to yourselves.
3. Time and Space can decide what you get or loose. In other words your experience is time and space limited.
4. Enjoy what you see, your experience. That moment is precious. The idea of being present and savoring the moment is not a novel idea, but it’s often a forgotten one. David Attenborough’s extraordinary documentaries on Animal Kingdom are awesome; no doubt about that. But nothing will ever have as big an effect as seeing the real beauty of the world and its inhabitants on safari by yourselves.
5. Silence is golden. Feel it and enjoy it. Through the day enjoy that moment where a bird or a monkey or a deer provides an alarm for an approaching animal. In the night at the Camp, listen to the insects’ hum and chirp; the stars in the sky and the sounds of nature.
6. See the positives. Even dirty roads and bushy terrain offers great views.
7. The Sun always provides spectacular views both in the morning and evening. Enjoy it and pray Aditya for keeping us alive.
8. Be patient. You have no choice. Sometimes what you want and expect doesn’t happen right away; sometimes what you want takes much longer than you thought it would.
9. Ears are better than mouth. Listening is Often Better Than Talking. Listen to the safari guide or just listen to the sounds of the bush. The point is that when we listen, our bodies are much more attuned to everything that’s happening around us. You also learn what you may not have known.
10. Life is not a rat race. Reconnect with the beauty of little things and enjoy.