As per the Dictionaries, the word “proud” conveys two meanings:
1. feeling deep pleasure or satisfaction as a result of one's own achievements, qualities, or possessions or those of someone with whom one is closely associated."a proud grandma of three boys". Similarly a broad and beaming smile, a puffed out chest, a feeling of confidence and accomplishment- You’re proud of who you are and what you’ve done, and you’re celebrating it. Way to go! Feeling proud is the best. You can be proud of yourself for a number of reasons. We all have been at some time in our life.
2. having or showing a high or excessively high opinion of oneself or one's importance."a proud, arrogant man". Quite often we also have heard the term “success has gone into his head”. What does this mean? If you say that something such as praise or success goes to someone's head, you are criticizing them because you think that it makes them too proud or confident and make one conceited.
These two meanings convey the two distinct types of pride. Whereas the former called authentic pride — pride that stems from proven possession of a valued ability — is often narrowly defined, the later called hubristic pride is the opposite; a grandiose belief that one has prized qualities that one doesn’t actually have. Either of them is fundamentally about the behaviour of humans in day to day life. Society believes that the former is acceptable but the later is not.
For pride to work, it must be paired with humility — a humility to know that no matter our skill set, each of us depends on what others have to offer.Ultimately you have to wake up every day and look in the mirror, and you want to be proud of the person who’s looking back at you. And you can only do that if you’re being honest with yourself and being a person of high character.
In this Sloka, Adi Sankara helps us to look at ourselves in the mirror. He says that if one is honest with oneself and is of high character, he will keep asking himself a question.
“Have I created something or do I own and control something to be proud of?”
He takes three conceits as examples to explain the reality of life and provides a clear strategy to handle the unwanted situation of “success getting into head”. Let us examine this important Sloka.
Maa kuru dhanajana youvana garvam
Harati nimEshaat kaala: sarvam
Maayaamayamidam akhilam hitvaa
Brahmapadam tvam pravisa viditvaa
Meaning of the Sanskrit Words
मा - Maa: Do not कुरु - Kuru: indulge in/take धनजनयौवन - Dhana: in Possession, Jana: in people, Youvana: in youth गर्वं - Garvam: pride
हरति - Harathi: will be washed away निमेषात्कालः सर्वम् - Nimaeshaath: in a moment, Kaalaha: the Time, Sarvam: all these
मायामयमिदमखिलं - माया , मयं, इदम् अखिलं - Maayamayam: माया-delusion; मयं= full of/completely filled; full of illusory nature, Idham: these/this, aKhilam: all हित्वा - hithva - Abandoning
ब्रह्मपदं - brahmapadham: the state of Brahman/the greater principles of Brahman त्वं - tvam: you प्रविश - pravisha: enter into विदित्वा - vidhitva: after realizing
Meaning in English
Do not boast of possessions , wealth, friends , and youth. Each one of these are destroyed within a moment by Time. Free yourself from the illusion of the world of Maya (illusory nature) and may you know the abode of Brahman and enter it.
In this Sloka, Adi Sankara discusses
1. Humans and Conceits 2. Effect of Time 3. The world and Maya 4. Brahman and knowledge of Him
Humans & Conceits - dhana jana youvana garvam
Adi Sankara takes three hollow conceits Dhana, Jana and Yauvana: These three stand for wealth, fame, and youth; or Kanchana, Keerti and Kama; also called Vitteshna, Lokeshna and Putreshna (desire for wealth, fame and progeny) and states that these are all false vanities which will vanish in no time. These three are the classical obstacles to all spiritual endeavour. It is because they prop up the Ego, whereas spiritual Sadhana aims to destroy the Ego.
Let us examine these three “traitors”.
Dhana - Wealth - As said in the introduction, let us apply the question “ have I created the wealth or do I have control on this wealth?” I cannot claim so. Why? This wealth which I say is mine, is either inherited or earned. Let us leave out the inherited wealth and focus on the “earned wealth”. If I have earned it, it is because of certain abilities that I possess by God’s grace and the skills I have developed using my body mind complex, and all the intelligence and knowledge and skill that I have been provided with by my parents, teachers, institutions and trainers.
That is the reason that our scriptures clearly say that we have to be grateful and discharge our debts that we owe to God, Ancestors/parents and to the rishis who have been our teachers.
“devānāṃ ca pitṝṇāṃ ca ṛṣīṇāṃ ca tathā naraḥ | ṛṇavāñ jāyate yasmāttanmokṣe prayatet (ta ?)
Therefore, when we really think about the realities of life, there can be only humility and no pride. If we neither understand nor realise this basic gratefulness, the greatest risk that could accompany wealth is an arrogant attitude filled with disdain for the less fortunate. Here the term wealth encompasses not only material wealth, but also such things as position, name, fame, power, etc.
Just as wealth, so also people power and youthfulness are also not ever lasting. Sankara in the earlier Sloka 5, brought out clearly how even close relations may come to avoid one without wealth or earning power.
And as for youthfulness and bodily strength which are essentially based on fat & flesh, is there anyone who can defy the natural progression of the body to old age and eventual decay and death? Everything we own, we shall either leave them all one day, or they will leave us – and, that is an undeniable truth. In the very first Sloka Adi Sankara told our foolish minds that nothing will help us when the designated date and time arrive for the termination of the lease agreement between the body and soul.
Thus, the world and all the wealth it offers are only illusory and transient.
Effect of time - Harati nimEshaat kaala: sarvam
Sankara uses three important words, harati, nimesha kaala, sarvam; everything will be wiped out in a matter of seconds is the literal meaning.
To discuss and understand this sentence, one need not go anywhere. Here is the data from World Health Organisation (WHO) and World Bank:
From March 2020, in a matter of 1000 days (86,400,000 secs), “it” had the following impact so far:
1. 6,606,624 human beings were officially confirmed dead. That is approximately a death every 13 seconds all over the world. 2. Severe shock waves rocked through the world economy and triggered the largest global economic crisis in more than a century, 3. more than 50 percent of households in emerging and advanced economies were not able to sustain basic consumption for more than three months in the event of income losses, 4. a dramatic impact on global poverty and inequality with global poverty increased for the first time in a generation, and disproportionate income losses among disadvantaged populations led to a dramatic rise in inequality within and across countries
In this 21st Century of Science and Technology, did we know that “it” was coming? Did we know that “it” will do “Harati nimEshaat kaala: sarvam”? Thanks to “it” viz.,Covid 19 the pandemic, Wealth is gone, youth is gone, friends have gone in matter of seconds. मा कुरु धनजनयौवन गर्वं हरति निमेषात्कालः सर्वम्- Maa kuru dhanajana youvana garvam, Harati nimEshaat kaala: sarvam.
The world and Illusion - Maayaamayamidam akhilam
The world is filled with full of illusion is the literal meaning. “Maya mayam” says Sankara.
What is Maya? In Vedanta, this is a very complicated subject by itself and extensive research articles are available on this subject. We will not dwell in detail about this; but will have a bird’s eye view of this complex subject.
1. Maya is fundamentally inscrutable 2. We don’t know why it exists and we don’t know when it began. 3. It cannot be said either to exist or not to exist. For example - The phenomenon produced by the magician’s will, cannot be said to exist, because it soon disappears and the magician himself knows that it is an illusion. Neither can it be said not to exist at all, because we are conscious of the thing, though only for a time; and we are never conscious of a thing which does not exist at all (altogether non existent) like a man’s horn. 4. Maya has three qualities. It can project thoughts. It can conceal the truth. It can distinguish between what is truth and what is untruth. In Sanskrit they are called the Vikshepa Shakti (projection), Avarana Shakti (hiding), and Viveka Shakti (discriminative power). 5. As per Advaita Vedanta, Maya (ignorance called avidya) and Vidya (the knowledge of our own divine nature), are both the mighty potentialities of the Lord. They are NOT CREATED by God. By the one He partially conceals His true nature and manifests Himself as Jiva ; and then by the other which removes the veil of illusion, He realises Himself. What we do know is that, like any form of ignorance, maya ceases to exist at the dawn of knowledge of our own divine nature. As per Dvaita Vedanta, it is God’s mysterious power. As per Saiva Siddhanta, it is independent of God and is the material cause of the world.
Maya deprives me of a realistic or objective perception of life. I am not able to appreciate the world for what it is. The feelings of pleasure and security they bring are only fleeting and not real. The objects of this world manifest happiness like a brass object that shines like a piece of gold, or a piece of mirrored glass that may shine like a diamond. Just as this glitter does not mean that the objects are what they appears to be, so also, the glitter of security and happiness etc. in the objects of the world is not real. Sri Sankaracarya says, mayamayam idam, may you realize that all of this creation is mayamayam, a product of maya.
The literal meaning is abandon, renounce, give up. Philosopher Eknath Easwaran used to say
In pleasure there is fear of disease; In a good family, fear of disgrace; In wealth, fear of taxes; In honor, fear of humiliation; In power, fear of enemies; In beauty, fear of old age; In learning, fear of contradiction; In virtue, fear of scandal; In the body, fear of death. All things of this world are mixed with worry. Renunciation alone brings freedom from fear.
Swami Viditatmananda Ji says “In Vedanta, renunciation is not an action; it is a state of mind, a certain attitude towards the things of the world. In renouncing, I do not do something or discard something outwardly. When I give up something and yet feel its loss, it only means that I have not really given it up inwardly.
Do not look to the world, the object for a solution to problems that pertain to the subject, the self for inward looking issues such as sadness, fear, or insecurity and reaching the ultimate goal of securing unadulterated permanent happiness. These cannot be solved by the objects of the world. Recognizing this fact is renunciation.
Renunciation is recognizing things for what they are, accepting that everything has a certain degree of reality or usefulness, and assigning them that degree of reality. As we have already been told, the solution to the problems of the self lies only in the knowledge of the self.
Adi Sankara advises us to realize that happiness is not to be found in any of this (dhana, jana, yovvana) and therefore he urges us to “hithwa” renounce it.
Viditva means having known, after realising (understanding and experiencing). Having known the truth about yourself, tvam brahmapadam pravisa, may you enter the abode of Brahman.
Therefore, to know the truth about myself and enter the abode of Brahman, I need to renounce the world i.e., when I cease to look to the world for solving my problems and reaching my goal. The very purpose of human birth is to become Divine. Becoming Divine is the goal of human life. Rest everything that comes is the way of life. We must never get confused between goal of life and way of life. The goal of life should be able to give us permanent happiness.
Having understood and experienced that “brahma satyam, and jagat mithya” (Only Brahman is the ultimate reality and the world is impermanent), my calm and peaceful mind can be free from any distractions, and then I will be able to focus my attention upon the knowledge of the Self and enter the abode of Self which is “Thou art that” (“tat tvam asi”). It is not attaining heaven that is above all the clouds with angels flying around us in white coloured clothes. It’s being Liberated, being Free, Here & Now! This is exactly what Adi Sankara said in Sloka 9 as “niscala tattve jivanmukti:”.
The transitory nature of the world and its pleasures should awaken us from our slumber. We must apply our intelligence and know that these things are in essence just illusions (Maya). Our goal should be to know the Supreme principle Brahman and to merge our little consciousness in it. The Atman, which resides inside us, is the true and everlasting principle.
Let us get this important message of Adi Sankara nad move on to the next Sloka, which will be in the next blog. Until then……
In the process of my spiritual journey, I have been trying to understand the works of Adi Sankaracharya. The child in me ventured and tried to understand the following works of Adi Sankara so far.
Sivananda Lahari, Siva Panchaksharam, Subramanya Bhujangam, Nirvana Shatakam, Bhaja Govindam and Ganesha Pancharathnam. The current venture is into Dakshinamurthy Sthothram.
Last week during one of my Whatsapp messaging with my eldest brother (whose name is incidentally Gurumoorthy), I got the link of the MS Subbulakshmi’s song on Totakaashtakam. That was the trigger.
How childish I am and how immature I have been! True to the nature of a child (as would be described by Adi Sankara himself in one of the Slokas of Dakshinamurthy Stothram), it didn’t even occur to me that I should offer my prayers to Adi Sankara himself first, before venturing. How can anyone commence a journey without offering prayers to the காவல் தெய்வம் ? (The Protector) Sankara.
To me it became clear that The Guru, appeared as an innocuous message from my brother Gurumoorthy and triggered me to dive into Totakaashtakam and ensure that I don’t carry on the journey without offering my prayers to Adi Sankara – the Akhila Guru’s (Lord Sankara’s) avatar.
So, here is my humble understanding of the Ashtakam and my prayers to Adi Sankaracharya.
I dedicate this translation to the lotus feet of Maha Periavaa Sri Paramacharya of Kanchi. Here is a rare video clip of Maha Periavaa explaining Totakaashtakam.
I will resume Dakshinamurthy Stothram now in the next blog on 07th May 2021.
श्वेताश्व – white horses ? Here it refers to Swethavatara* Upanishad,
वाक्योदित- from the words
देवि दुर्गे । – devi Durga
स्वाभाविकी – innate, natural
ज्ञान – knowledge
बल – fruit
क्रिया – act/operation
मां पाहि सर्वेश्वरि मोक्षदात्रि
Meaning in English
You are His Shakthi called Para, which is spoken in different ways, You are the one who is being celebrated by Swethavatara* Upanishad, You are by your nature , the power force in all actions and wisdom, And so please protect me , oh goddess of all and oh giver of salvation. * This major Upanishad gives the basic teachings and concepts of Bhagwad Gita.
Those, who follow meditation(dhyana) and contemplation (yoga), can’t see you; indeed the Goddess hidden in your own virtues. You are the energy behind Lord Parameshwara. Protect me oh Universal Mother, the liberator for salvation
Last year in 2019, it was July 19th. July is normally the month of Guru purnima. This year it is on 5th July 2020.
Last year being the first year of my blogging, I dedicated the blog to my Guru, my father. This year I was contemplating as to what to do. What better way to dedicate & observe this month than to try and understand the unique composition by the greatest legend who lived in the 20th century – Kanchi Maha Swami fondly known as Paramacharya, Kanchi Periavaa, Shri. Chandrashekarendra Saraswathi.
In this month starting July 3, on every Friday, over 5 blogs I will try and understand His Durga Pancharathnamala. The available information in the world wide web was of immense help to me in this process.
It is also a strange coincidence that the first Carnatic Music Composition that came to me for my Tamil translation work in July is on Goddess Kamakshi, the principal deity on whom Paramacharya Kanchi Maha Swami composed Durga Pancharathnamala. This is scheduled on July 5th.