In Tamil, we use the word கடவுள் (kadavul) to indicate God. நம்மைக் கடந்தும் (kada) நமக்கு உள் (ul) இருப்பதுவே கடவுள் (Meaning that the one which is away from us and yet inside us is God). A very simple word with very deep meaning. One can keep contemplating on this word alone. Deeper introspection will drive us to the concept of Infinity. Talking about infinity from a philosophical perspective will take us directly to this very famous Sloka (Hymn). This śloka is from the Bṛhadāraṇyaka Upanishad and forms the mangalācarana mantra (Shanthi Sloka) for the Īśāvāsya Upanishad.
“It is an oft-quoted saying that philosophy begins in wonder. The mystery of the world with all its changes strikes the reflective temper. The Vedic philosophy grew out of a demand for the explanation of actual experience. Philosophy bade men seek beneath all change, which is the law of life, unity and persistency. All things are passing; what remains? Anything or nothing? The Vedic age raised the problem of philosophy and offered a solution. It was then that attempts to reflect upon the world of experience were made for the first time. When we reflect upon the world of experience, the word illusion (“Maya”) comes to the foreground.
The doctrine of Maya is consideredby many thinkers,to be an integral part of the Vedanta philosophy. The Vedanta system is supposed to be an acosmic pantheism, holding that the Absolute called Brahman alone is real and the finite manifestations are illusory. There is one absolute undifferentiated reality, the nature of which is constitutedby knowledge. The entire empirical world, with its distinction of finite minds and the objects of their thought,is an illusion. Subjects and objects are like the fleeting images which encompass the dreaming soul and melt away into nothingness at the momentof waking.
The term Maya signifies the illusory character of the finite world.” ( Dr. S. Radhakrishnan, Eminent Indian Philosopher)
Wait a minute; does this statement strike a chord in us – in today’s COVID-19 environment?
It looks like it happened “just recently”. A year and a quarter has passed since the virus silently spread across the world. Millions of lives lost. Inter and intra relationships & transactions among and within individuals and society have been completely turned around leaving one to wonder whether it is all a dream and whether we all are waking up to a new state after a deep sleep. Yes, all the three basic states of our Consciousness (awake, dream and deep sleep) have come to play in this crucial time in each one of us thanks to Maya (She, The Big M,I call it).
Well, to me it appears like that; so I woke up after my second vaccination, with a new found determination to explore Maya and her origin, the Vedanta. True to its nature, the Big M treated me like a kid (which I am) and presented me with an exclusive giant Mall with infinite toy stores. No wonder I am lost. Not to disappoint me, the Big M presented me with three books titled Tattva Bodha, Isavasya Upanishad and Dakshinamurthy Stothram.
The last 2 weeks have been fairly severe in terms of the weather; temperatures dropping to single digits (deg F) and snow storms lashing cities forcing kids like me to seek the comfort of our cozy home – that means the Big M has given me an opportunity to deep dive into the books that I got from Her. Each Sloka (Verse) and each word in the three books, is sending me into “space walks” in search of the Self . Holding each Sloka as my life line, I venture into the space of contemplation. Whenever I return back to my home base, I stare through the window at the vast white carpet of snow all around and tried to relate my space walk with the “ground reality”.
In one such “stare” in the early morning after I went on my 18th space walk (corresponding to the 18th Sloka of the Isavasya Upanishad) , the day after the snow storm I did have a direct response from the principal character of that Sloka. Here is that Sloka, its meaning in English and Tamil and the response of the character .
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 by scribblings on Vedanta. 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.
अग्ने नय सुपथा राये अस्मान्विश्वानि देव वयुनानि विद्वान् ।
युयोध्यस्मज्जुहुराणमेनो भूयिष्ठां ते नम उक्तिं विधेम ॥ १८ ॥
agne naya supathā rāye asmānviśvāni deva vayunāni vidvān |
yuyodhyasmajjuhurāṇameno bhūyiṣṭhāṃ te nama uktiṃ vidhema || 18 ||
Meaning in Tamil
அழல்தெய்வமே ! புரிவினையாவுமறிந்திட்டு – யாம்
Meaning in English
O god of fire, lead us by the good path
To eternal joy. You know all our deeds.
Deliver us from evil, we who bow
And pray again and again.
(From The Upanishads by Eknath Easwaran)
Music Courtesy: Jagruthi an awakening by Music India. (No commercial interests for me).