Preamble- The journey so far:
For all of us, Life is nothing but the time spent between the maternity ward and crematorium on the “surface of a tiny rock-ball, rotating around a spherical fire in a tiny galaxy in an ever expanding galaxies ” loosely called as Earth, world, visvam, jagat etc. Tamil poet Kannadasan called the life as the time between between the drop of a water (semen) and the spark of fire lit. ஒரு துளி நீரில் ஜனனம் ஒரு துளி நெருப்பில் மரணம். இதனிடையில் தான் நம் வாழ்க்கையெனும் பயணம்.
In this “real” (or unreal?) world, all of us (none excluded) have one single goal – mitigating our pains and enhancing our pleasures. துன்பத்தைப் போக்கி இன்பத்தை அடைவதே நம் வாழ்வின் குறிக்கோள். Towards this we all carry out nonstop transactions within ourselves, with the world and of course with the “God” – the Unknown.
From a Vedantic perspective, life can be also stated as the journey. When we say “journey” we are not talking about a point to point or time to time journey. We are talking about a journey which is beyond the domain of time and space; beyond our sense and action organs. We are talking about a journey from avidya to vidya; from ignorance to enlightenment; a journey to understand the intricate relationships between the puzzling trio of Ishvara, Jiva and Jagat. Understanding this relationship called Isvara Jnana by the Seeker is the ultimate goal.
The first eight Slokas of Dakshinamurthy Stothram (some call it as Dakshinamurthy Ashtakam) provided us with the essence of this Vedantic perspective. It presented to us, the Vidya viz., knowledge of Atman, which is Pure Awareness, Changeless and unborn Ultimate Reality. We tried to understand that Vidya, the “atma jnanam” (Know Thyself) is an individual’s experiential learning about “atma isvara aikyam” under the able guidance of a Guru. All wisdom is born of spirit of self-enquiry. It dispels the non-understanding and the undivided intelligence shines in its own light. The wisdom has to arrive directly on the individual, no transmitted knowledge can be sufficient for the real enlightenment. Self is self-luminous. When consciousness becomes aware of itself, there manifests the Intelligence itself. That awareness is Vidya. Adi Sankara with the help of examples highlighted the purpose of our life.
The concept of Viswa Rupa:
Our culture is deep rooted in the spiritual ethos of each individual working towards his own ultimate liberation as a fundamental goal of life. This is the unique gift of Vedic philosophy to the world of spirituality. Ordinary mortals like us find it impossible to acquire this Vidya in our cycles of life (birth and death).
Our Vedic Rishis realised our plight and the fact that Brahman as creator or Supreme Consciousness is too abstract to follow and understand. Since everything in nature is God’s creation, so they simply connected the people with Brahman through an icon of personal choice of Ishta Deva as long as it remains only a symbolic representation of the Ultimate Reality; making it possible for all diversities to represent that single transcendental Reality.
This connection/attachment to the Ishta Deva turned into devotion and worship. A farmer may worship the plough, a fisherman his boat, people whatever god and goddesses they propitiate for their aspect of life related to them. God is there and so the happiness of life can be attained by His grace. The medium is not important, our spirit of surrender to Him and dedicated work for a noble cause is the way out to realise Him in the blissful heart.
Next, from the single idol of God (eka rupa), the rishis had to find ways to migrate us to the state of understanding Brahman, i.e., from an Idol to a formless, omnipresent eternal Ultimate Reality. This means that the focus of our actions should shift from “Eka Rupa” to “arupa”; from “saguna” to “nirguna”. For this purpose, the Rishis introduced an intermediate level, an “aneka rupa” called “Visva Rupa” as we progressed towards our goal. Based on the spiritual progress made, the Seeker is introduced to a form which encapsulates all that is perceivable in this universe and beyond.
The challenge next is how do you list out all that is perceivable. Vedic Philosophy found an answer for this question by identifying the principles (“tattva”) by which one could perceive. Different philosophies within our culture identified different number of “tattva”. For example, the Saivites identified 36 “tattvas”. (https://www.saivism.net/articles/tattvas.asp). இதனையே திருமூலரின் திருமந்திரத்திலும் காணலாம்.
முப்பத்தாறு தத்துவங்களையே முக்தியை அடைவிக்கும் சிறந்த ஏணியின் பல படிகளாக அமைத்துக் கொண்டு, ஒப்பில்லாத சிவானந்தத்தைத் தரும் ஒளியில் புகுந்து, சொல்வதற்கு அரிய சிவபெருமானைத் தரிசித்தவர்கள் அந்த சிவத் தன்மையை அடைந்து சிவமாகத் திகழ்வார்கள்.
The Rishis then presented the Visva Rupa of Brahman as a seamless integration of principles or tattvas on the “eka rupa” bringing out the “aneka rupa” of Brahman. If one studies the description of the Visva Rupa of Vishnu, Siva and Devi, one can understand that essentially they all are descriptions of the same tattvas, thus reinforcing the Advaita nature of the Brahman.
Adi Sankaracarya in Sloka 9 picks up representative samples from these tattvas and integrates it with Lord Siva, the Dakshinamurthy and presents to us for our understanding.
We will study this in our next blog.