Today is Thai Pongal. They say தை பிறந்தால் வழி பிறக்கும். The dawn of the Tamil Month of Thai is expected to bring in solutions to all our issues. Happy Pongal to all.
The day is also called Makar Sankranti or Uttarayan or Maghi or simply Sankranti (also known in Bangladesh as Poush Sankranti), It is a harvest festival day in the Hindu Calendar, dedicated to the nourisher Aditya or Surya (Sun). It is observed each year the day Sun enters the Capricorn zodiac which corresponds with the month of January as per the Gregoriyan Calendar. It marks the first day of the sun’s transit into Makara rashi (Capricorn). A very special day indeed for us.
On this auspicious day, here is my photographic Pranaam to Aditya.
Everyday during my walks in the early morning and in the evening, I was always under the impression that I had the best views of our nourisher “Aditya” the Sun and receive his Golden Blessings.
Somedays I get young guests joining me to share the gallery.
But never did I realize that there are always some “special beings” who had the vantage view, negating my “superior view” about myself. Here are these special ones.
No wonder we say “आदित्यहृदयंपुण्यं”. The Sun has a noble heart indeed.
Have a great day. God Bless. இறை அருள் பெருக. வளமுடன் வாழ்க !
In the last three blogs as introduction to the Sloka, we understood that the core of all of us viz., the inner consciousness known as the ātmā is compared to a maha deepam அருட்பெரும் ஜோதி (the light like Sun). The ātmā is described or revealed by comparing it to a light principle as the nearest example due to its self-luminous and self-evident nature called svayam prakāśatvam.
We also saw through experiments that in every perception, I, the ātmā, is independently self evident; and anātmā the object is dependently evident. The infinite consciousness by itself never illumines anything by itself. It is a upakaranaa or upadhi. It needs a medium to illumine. The medium borrows the light and reflect on the object. The mind borrows light from “me” temporarily and throws it on the object thro the 5 indriyas thro which it escapes.. That is called perception/gnana. The light of consciousness, when reflected at an inner equipment, reaches the object to illumine them. This process of reflecting light on objects and perceiving them through the atma-mind-indriyas combination is called व्रित्त्त पररणाम vritti pariṇāma, and when that takes place alone, the object becomes known. In other words for the knower to know we need cit (light), mind (anthakarana) and organs (indriyas) otherwise the object is masked or unknown (avidya).
With this understanding let us now study the Sloka
All this world shines after Him alone shining in the consciousness “I know”—after Him alone whose consciousness, luminous like the light of a mighty lamp standing in the bosom of a many-holed pot, moves outwards through the sense-organs such as the eye. To Him who is incarnate in the Teacher, to Him in the Effulgent Form Facing the South, to Him (Siva) be this bow!
Understanding the Sloka:
Here Śankarācārya wants to point out that the ātmā, the existence consciousness is ever evident and therefore does not require any special process to know. Knowing the ātmā is not a special event taking place by your special effort. Any other object in the world becomes known at a particular time by your special effort and becomes an event in time.
Naanaac-Chidra-Ghatto[a-U]dara-Sthita-Mahaa-Diipa-Prabhaa Bhaasvaram Jnyaanam Yasya Tu Cakssur-Aadi-Karanna-Dvaaraa Vahih Spandate |
ज्ञानं यस्य jñānam yasya; yasya means ātmānaha; ātmānaha jñānam. So, the light of ātmā, the light of consciousness of ātmā is भास्वरम् bhāsvaram; is brilliant; because it has to create a long beam; so it can see even the farthest star, I am able to see. Therefore, it is bhāsvaram; it is brilliant. Brilliant like what?
नानात्छिर घटोदर त्स्थत महादीप प्रभा, nānācchidra ghaṭodara sthita mahādīpa prabhā; like the prabhā, brilliance, like the brilliance of maha deepam; a very bright lamp, so that consciousness of ātmā is brilliant like the brilliance of a very bright lamp or big lamp; घट उदर त्स्थत gada udara sthitha; which is placed within a pot;
वहिः स्पन्दते Vahih Spandate Emerges out as a pulse/light
Continuing from the understanding of the first line which means that we presuppose the word तत् tat meaning that bright light of consciousness, that emerges out (वहिः स्पन्दते) through the five apertures, I know that viz. जानामीति Jaanaam-Iiti And then what happens, each beam of light falls on an object, one beam of light falling on sābda, another falling on sparsa; another falling on rūpa, and the moment the light falls on them; what happens, they all become known or bright; the non-luminous one becomes luminous; I know means what; that has become knowable or luminous.
When I say I know (जानामि) the object, the process of knowledge is only one; Verb is single; but on the two sides of the verb, there is a subject and there is an object. The subject reveals self-evidence; object is dependently evident; Depending on whom? Me. Therefore every jānāmi reveals one dependently evident object and independently evident subject. Adi Sankara uses the words; जानामि इति jānāmi ithi – इत्ति iti indicates a process of cognition of the object by the subject which by itself is self evident भानम् bhānam. Since the cognised object is proved only through cognition; it is called dependently evident; अनुभानम् anubhānam.
Thus जानामीर्त तमेव भान्तम् jānāmīti tameva bhāntam, in every jānāmi statement, that ātmā alone reveals itself and sarvam tam anubhāti. Not Sarvam, but yetat samastaṃ jagat. Śankarā uses the same word, bhāntam and anubhāti. yetatsamastaṃ jagat, the whole universe.
Last Line of the Sloka
तस्मै श्रीगुरुमूर्तये नम इदं श्रीदक्षिणामूर्तये Tasmai Shrii-Guru-Muurtaye Nama Idam Shrii-Dakssinnaamuurtaye
tasmai – means prabuddha puruṣāya; to that woken-up person, who is a jnāni; who is liberated; who is the knower, the known and the process , to that jnani my namaskaaram. So tasmai prabuddha puruṣāya, jnānine namaha. And who is that jnāni?
Shree gurumurthaye – who alone is a guru, who alone can serve as a guru and who is my guru, gurumoorthaye.
Namaha – my salutations.
Thus we can see again that a complex concept in Philosophy of knower- known, the relationship between “being” and “knowing” and the process of cognition is explained by Adi Sankara in just two lines using a simple experiment using a pot and a lamp.
இதனையே “உயிர் இடைவிடாது சிவனோடு பொருந்தி நின்று நீண்டு செல்லும் மனமும் சத்தம், பரிசம், ரூபம், இரசம், கந்தம் ஆகிய புலன்களின் உண்மையை அறிந்துவிட்டு, சுத்தமாயை அசுத்தமாயைகள் பற்றாவகை எண்ணி, தலைவனாகிய முழுமுதற் பொருளை அடைதல் சித்தாந்த நெறியாகும்” என திருமூலர் திருமந்திரத்தில் உபதேசிக்கிறார்
We are used to a “question paper based exam followed by practicals” – Aren’t we? Exactly; that is what we are going to do now in our study of Dakshinamurthy Stothram, Sloka 4.
In the previous introductory blog, we saw through sets of questions and answers, as to how the Self (ātmā) is comparable to the “maha deepam” the great light source. Let us continue the conceptual exploration through two experiments.
Experiment 1 – Sun, Dark Room & Mirror Experiment:
Place some objects inside a pitch-dark room. On a bright & sunny day, position a mirror outside at an angle; open the window of the dark room and try reflecting the sunlight through the window into the dark room by adjusting the angle of the mirror. What do you observe? You see that the objects which are otherwise invisible are illumined by the patch of sun light entering the dark room via the mirror and the window.
The question is: who or what illumines the dark room? The mirror or the Sun?
Suppose we say mirror, can we try the same experiment during midnight; keep the mirror at the same angle or at any other angle and try to illumine. The mirror is not able to provide light. So, we cannot say mirror is the illuminator.
If we say that the Sun alone illumines the dark room and not the mirror, then, what will happen if we remove the mirror? Again, the room will continue to be dark, because if the mirror is not there, with a roof over the room, the sunlight can not directly penetrate in the room and illumine. Therefore, mere Sun alone cannot illumine like mere mirror cannot illumine. Therefore, a combination of both the Sun and the mirror together illumine the objects of the dark room.
Pictorially the above experiment can be summarised as under
So, what are we trying to get out of this experiment. What is the illation here?
Experiment 2 – The “holi” pot and lamp Experiment
Light and place a bright lamp (wick lamp with burning oil) on the surface of the earth within a room which is densely dark. Place a pot having five holes with its mouth down over the lamp. Outside of that pot place (in front of each of the hole), an amala (நெல்லிக்காய்) fruit, veena, musk, good gem and a fan.
Now the question is about the perception of the collection of separate objects. Is it attributed to any of the following viz. Lamp or Oil or Wick or Pot or the objects themselves? What is the significance of the 5 holes and the five objects ? Why only these objects ?
The lamp is not able to directly illumine the objects, because it is covered by a pot with five holes; Therefore cooperation of pot is required in the sense that we need a pot with holes and not just the pot. In a lighter vein, therefore we require a ‘holi pot’.
The pot with holes alone can’t illumine and we require the lamp. The holes without the lamp within, cannot also illumine the ibject.
Same arguments go for the oil, the wick and the objects. None of them are self-illumine too and only those objects which fall within the range of the beam of light that comes out of the holes are perceived.
So, what are we trying to get out of this experiment. What is the illation here?
Well, “Practicals” are over. What did we learn?
Let us get into the details in the blog next week.
We saw in the previous Sloka 3, the vedantic concept of conjoined existence and light in perception of objects and understood that both “being” and “knowing” are nothing but the same (tat tvam asi). In Sloka 4, Adi Sankara throws more light on the “Light”.
Before we venture into the Sloka, I am going to start this blog with three sets of questions.
Can you see yourselves in broad day light ?
Can you see your friend in a crowd in the park in the day light ?
Can you see yourselves in a pitch dark room ?
Can you see your friend in the same pitch dark room?
Do you need a torch to see Sun in the daytime.
Can you see the stars and constellations on a clear night?
These are very simple and innocuous questions. Answering these shouldn’t pose difficulties.
Yes. I can see myself in broad light.
Yes. I searched and can see my friend in a crowd in the park.
No. I cant see myself physically but I know that I am there.
No. I can’t see my friend in the pitch dark room. I need light.
I don’t need a torch to see the Sun in daylight. It is all powerful.
Yes. I am able to see stars and constellations on a clear night.
Explanatory Notes for the answers
Now let us amplify the answers given.
Suppose if I ask whether you have seen your friend in the crowd, you will have to look around to see whether he has come or not; which means that a process is required. But when I ask you the question, are you there, you do not take any time, or even thinking. Even before the process of thinking starts, “I am here” is an evident fact.
I don’t need a light to say that I am inside a dark room since I know that I am there. It is self evident as indicated above. But I need a process and a light to see anyone else.
I don’t need an external light to see the Sun in daylight. It is the most powerful light source. It is a “maha deepam”. But the strange fact is I can see the stars which are millions of miles away in the sky on a clear night. Perhaps I have a powerful source of light inside me (a maha deepam) that helps me to see the stars. Maybe ! I don’t know.
Preamble to the Vedic Philosophy behind the “Light”
Apparently in these three sets of questions and answers, the underlying focus is on light and sight. Let us now throw some light on this light.
An object in the world becomes known at a particular time by our special effort. If I have to see my friend in a crowd at the park, it is an event in space and time. I have to turn in that direction and my mind should be behind the eye. Or the eyes will not see. And the light should fall on the crowd; and then a thought should take place in the mind; and that is called vritti pariṇāma, and when that takes place alone, the knowledge of my friend takes place; as an event, in the mind, because of the operation of the sense organ called eye. So, the steps involved in this light throwing process called mano vritti is as under:
1. Some object is there.
2. Light falls on it.
3. You see it through your effort with your eyes.
4. It translates that it is other than you
5. You recognize it through something.
6. It forms a wave thought
7. That gets reflected in a medium to lend existence
The process is nothing complicated. Simple. Isn’t it? But then how do you say “I am here” when you are in a pitch dark room and someone asks you “Where are you?” You even say sometimes “Don’t switch on the light. I am relaxing”. Strange ! Are you self luminous? Exactly. This is called svayam prakāśatvam of ātmā; self-evidence of ātmā; this is a very important concept in vedānta. In India we have people named as Swayam Prakash.
The core of an Individual known as ātmā is not only svayam prakāś but also a “maha deepam” – a great light.
In a lighter vein that is why if we see several Indian movies particularly the historical/mythological ones, you will see in death scenes, a light moves up from the body towards the heaven. We see obituary statements like “The light in our life has merged with the Almighty” even today.
With this introductory understanding that core of all of us viz., the inner consciousness known as the ātmā is compared to a maha deepam (the light like Sun) in, let us proceed toward our goal of understanding the Sloka 4 where Adi Sankara again comes out with simple experiments to drive home the Vedantic Concepts.
From the previous blogs we understood the concepts behind the word Existence and Light viz., “Being & Knowing” – The Tat and the Tvam parts; the Paramatma and Jivatma. We saw with examples of an existing Table and analysis that both are two kinds of emptiness. We can say that there are two kinds of emptiness; one called being and the other called knowing. What is the difference between the substance of vibration (being) and the substance of knowing? Where is the line between these two emptiness.
Initially, we may think that the line between the two emptiness is just outside us. As we contemplate and meditate with the help of a Guru, we will experience that there is no dividing line: It is not there. This is the great discovery of the nondual (advaita) understanding. The reality i.e, the emptiness of the knowledge of pure consciousness (I) called time and the reality of emptiness of the matter as the substance of vibration (you the object) called as space are empty and identical. These are two different shades of water colors on the same paper (like the two parts of the faces in the art work done by my 8 year old grandson in the image shown above). This is an experiential recognition as we meditate on the subject. This is called the Jivatma-Paramatma Aikyam.
So jīvātma is pure Consciousness, paramātma is pure Existence. Then vedāntaḥ says this pure Existence which lends existence to the world, this pure Consciousness which lends consciousness to the body, both this pure Existence and pure Consciousness are one and the same. So, Existence is Consciousness; Consciousness is Existence. And it is this Existence-Consciousness which makes the body sentient; and which makes the world existent. And this recognition of the oneness of the existence and consciousness is jīvātma paramātma êkya jnānam, and Śankarācārya says, whichever Guru manages to successfully communicate, this identity of this pure Existence and Pure consciousness, to that Guru, who is Dakṣiṇāmurty., My namaskarams. This is going to be the essence of this third Sloka which we will see in the next blog.
Here are the pictorial representations of our learning on Sat & Cit (Existence and Consciouness) (Courtesy: vedantastudents.com)
In the previous blog we saw that there are two ways of perceiving an object like the example of the table. “ I see it and therefore the table exists” and “the table exists and therefore I see it”. According to Adi Sankaracharya’ Advaita philosophy, knowledge of the world is knowledge of the thoughts of the objects of the world, or viṣayākāravṛittijñana. When knowledge is thus based on the modification of the mind, the objects will definitely be external to you. The knowledge of the world, being viṣayākāra vṛitti, is therefore obtained through the senses. Therefore He also advocates that yad-dṛśyam tat naśyam—that which is perceivable is perishable. I was reminded by my “Twitter Friends” of a wonderful Tamil proverbs that reflect this: விண்டவர் கண்டிலார்….கண்டவர் விண்டிலார்; கண்ணால் காண்பதும் பொய் காதால் கேட்பதும் பொய் தீர விசாரிப்பதே மெய்
Nevertheless we also understood that we need both “Existence” and “Light” for our knowledge of the objects and hence the world.
From the scientific perspective, we know that light is an energy radiation. No single answer to the question “What is light?” satisfies the many contexts in which light is experienced, explored, and exploited. The physicist is interested in the physical properties of light, the artist in an aesthetic appreciation of the visual world. Through the sense of sight, light is a primary tool for perceiving the world and communicating within it. Light from the Sun warms the Earth, drives global weather patterns, and initiates the life-sustaining process of photosynthesis. On the grandest scale, light’s interactions with matter have helped shape the structure of the Universe.
Vedantic Treatise on Light
Imagine a situation where you are just entering a room and the light goes off. Do you need light to identify the objects in the room? Yes, surely. Remember you are an object too. Do you need light to identify yourselves? No. Why?
When we discuss this topic, one important Eka Sloki (Single Sloka) of Adi Śankarā is to be understood. Adi Śankarā answers these two questions by a single sloka. The Sloka is presented as a dialogue between a teacher (Guru) and student (Sishya), in response to a question by the student on realization of self. The Sloka, its Tamil & English Translations are given below:
Guru: How do you see (What is that light/power which helps you see?) Sishya: I see with the help of sunlight
Guru: How do you see in the night? Sishya: I see with the help of a lamp
Guru: Let that be so. How do you see the light? Sishya: With my eyes.
Guru: How do you see when tour eyes are closed ? Sishya: It is with my intellect
Guru: What helps you see (know) that intellect? Sishya: This is me (me as pure consciousness)
Guru: (Indeed) You are that supreme light Sishya: I realize that I am (immediate experience for the disciple)
So, the following facts about the “Light” have to be understood:
1. “Light” is not a part, product or property of the object
2. “Light” is formless
3. “Light” is independent, enlivens the object and makes it sentient.
4. “Light” is beyond the object and is “Sarvaghataha”.
5. “Light” will be there even after the object is destroyed. Once object goes, “Light” is not recognizable as the recognizing medium is gone
Light is Cit, the Chaitanyam
Let us go back to the previous blog where we saw that an object in the ultimate analysis of matter, either through the inward looking Vedantic route or through the outward looking scientific route (as explained in the blogs that covered Sloka 2 on Creation) is nothing but emptiness which takes the shape of vibrations and comes into existence. If this vibration is not known then we will not know that it “is”. So there is also this knowing. To visualise this knowing we add a spatial reference to it. If we further contemplate on this existence of this vibration suspended as it were in the “knowing” spatial field, we learn that this spatial knowing field is also empty of objects. This is the second kind of emptiness: the emptiness of pure consciousness. This emptiness is “cit” चित् (chaitanyam) is pure (independent from body & mind) and is the Jivātma, the Self-awareness त्वम् (Tvam) and at the worldly level is known as visibility (bhaati भाति)
We saw “sat” Existence earlier. We now saw “cit” Light. In either of these two studies, there is a basic question that is not addressed yet and needs to be looked into. That question is “How have existence and light come to be conjoined with all existing things?”.
The answer to this question will come up in the next blog.